When we think of children’s literature, we often think back to our own childhoods, curling up under our covers with a flashlight, reading classics like The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, or, if you are a bit younger, Harry Potter.
Linda Sue Park, a Korean American children’s author, is, and continues to be a source of inspiration for this generation’s young readers and budding writers. Park, who has been exploring more of her heritage since writing her debut novel Seesaw Girl, recently visited Korea for the first time in nine years, to give lectures on her award-winning novel, A Single Shard.
Set in 12th century Korea, A Single Shard tells the tale of a twelve-year-old orphan boy named Tree-ear who becomes fascinated about learning the art of pottery. After being barred from the craft because of his orphan status, Tree-ear is eventually sent on a mission to deliver pottery on behalf of Min, a local potter, to an imperial emissary to receive a royal commission. In 2002 the novel received the Newbery Medal, the highest prize bestowed to children’s fiction in America.
Told with remarkable attention to historical detail, the book is a wonderful read, especially for children wishing to learn more about their cultural heritage. In a recent interview, Park noted how her idea for the book originated. “I got the idea when I learned that Korean pottery had been the best in the world in the 11th and 12th century. That made me very proud of being Korean. I decided I wanted more people to know about it.”
Park was born on the outskirts of Chicago, where she was raised by her Korean immigrant parents. At nine, she published a haiku in Trailblazer Magazine, and went on to publish pieces throughout her school years. But Park, who eventually relocated to the UK, didn’t realize she her passion for writing children’s literature until after Park had children and began teaching English as a second language to college students.
Since her Newbery Medal win, Linda Sue Park has been promoting her subsequent work, including Bee-bim Bop and Project Mulberry.
In addition to offering young readers her stimulating fiction, Park serves as role model for aspiring writers. At the 14th Annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Park, as the keynote speaker, imparted the importance of hard work. “The in-between stuff of wanting to [do or achieve something] that’s the hard stuff Don’t believe in yourself, believe in your work!”