In Linda Sue Park's novel A Single Shard, Tree-ear proves himself a worthy worker for the master potter Min many times over. The orphan boy begins working for Min after accidentally breaking a piece of pottery. After his required nine days are over, Tree-ear continues his work even though he does not get paid. He hopes to be able to learn how to make pottery. Further, Min's wife gives Tree-ear lunch every day, a meal that he shares with his best friend and protector Crane-man.
Tree-ear learns every task to which Min sets him through his observation skills and cleverness, yet Min never praises him. Min's wife grows in affection toward the boy, and he comes to love her as well. But Tree-ear is disappointed when Min refuses to teach him how to make pottery because he isn't Min's son.
Still, Tree-ear continues to work for Min, and he prepares for his most important task yet. He is to carry two pieces of Min's best pottery to Songdo to show the official Kim in the hopes that Min will receive a royal commission. Along the way, two robbers attack Tree-ear and break the vases, but Tree-ear decides that he will bring the largest and best shard to Kim anyway. He will not give up. He is bound and determined to give his master a chance at that commission one way or another.
Tree-ear's perseverance and loyalty pay off, for even with the single shard (along with Kim's previous knowledge of Min's work), Kim gives Min the commission. Tree-ear is surprised when he returns home, for Min does not appear excited about the commission. Min then tells Tree-ear that his friend Crane-man has been killed in an accident. He lets Tree-ear grieve for a while, and then when Tree-ear is ready to work again, he sends the boy out to get some logs. Tree-ear hesitates, for he cannot figure out what the logs will be for.
Then Min tells him that Tree-ear is to have his own wheel. He is to be Min's apprentice and adopted son. He will live with Min and his wife and even take a new name, Hyung-pil. Min has recognized the value of this orphan boy, his talent, his loyalty, his cleverness, his affection, and his honesty. Min has probably been growing in appreciation and affection for the boy for some time, yet he has not revealed his feelings. What's more, there was Crane-man to think of. Min and his wife likely realized that Tree-ear would never abandon his friend and agree to live with them. He has already shown that half of all he gets goes to Crane-man. Now that his friend is gone, though, Tree-ear is all alone in the world, but that is soon remedied, for he has new parents and a new life.