Written by Korean-American author Linda Sue Park in 2001, A Single Shard tells the story of young orphan Tree-ear who lives in 12th century Korea. Although Tree-ear does not know how old he is exactly, he thinks that he is probably about twelve-years-of-age.
Following the deaths of both his parents, Tree-ear became an orphan when he was about two-years-old. When an uncle, his last remaining relative could not be found, Tree-ear ended up living under a bridge in the seaside village of Ch’ulp’o with Crane-man. Crane-man is so-called as he is physically disabled and walks with a crutch. When he tries to stand upright, he resembles a crane.
Crane-man is a good man and Tree-ear’s only friend. He teaches Tree-ear how to be a good and moral person. When some monks arrived to take Tree-ear to live with them at their monastery, he refused to leave his friend and protector. As Tree-ear doesn’t go to school or belong to a community, he doesn’t have any other friends. After Crane-man is killed in an accident Tree-ear has lost his only friend and companion.