Tree Ear is a boy who lives in a small village on the west coast of Korea in the middle of the 12th century. He spends most of his time scavenging for scraps around local trash heaps and sleeps under a bridge at night. His friend is Crane Man, an old man with a disabled leg who has taken care of Tree Ear since he was brought to the village years before by a monk.
Tree Ear’s life changes when he begs a local potter named Min to take him on as an assistant to pay off a debt. His days are then spent in hard manual labor cutting down trees or digging out blocks of clay along the river bank. Tree Ear one day hopes to learn how to make pottery on a wheel, but Min gruffly refuses to teach him.
When Min decides to show his pottery to the royal emissary in the capital, however, he must rely on Tree Ear to make this perilous journey.
I loved this book and could tell why it won the 2002 Newberry Honor Award. The different setting truly lent to its appeal. I found the characters fully human. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a good juvenile historical fiction book.