BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park + Author Interview [in KoreAm Journal]

Linda Sue Park for ShardChild’s Play: The Writerly Life of Newbery Award-Winner Linda Sue Park

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — When Linda Sue Park first received the call last spring that she had won the top honor in children’s literature – the coveted 2002 John Newbery Medal for A Single Shard – her immediate reaction was disbelief. “I had to ask the woman to repeat what she had said a couple times before I could believe I had won,” Park recalls.

Although Park, who is Illinois-born and bred, began her writing career at age 9 when she published a haiku for a children’s magazine, decades would pass before she attempted her first book. In between, she earned three literature degrees at Stanford, Trinity College, Dublin and the University of London. She married her “handsome Irishman,” had two children, and did stints as a copywriter and teaching English as a second language.

Then finally, came the writing: “My husband told me he was tired of hearing about my writing a book, why didn’t I just do it?” So Park took his challenge and the result was her first title, Seesaw Girl, a historical novel for middle schoolers, about an aristocratic girl growing up in 17th-century Korea published in 1999.

“When I was young, because they were not storytellers themselves, my parents gave me a copy of Frances Carpenter’s Tales of a Korean Grandmother,” Park recalls. “When I read it, I was very interested – and horrified – to learn that historically, Korean girls were not allowed to leave their home. That stuck in my head. I wanted to know what it might have been like to live a life like that – so 27 years later, I began Seesaw Girl.

Dinah Stevenson, Park’s editor who is also vice president and associate publisher at Clarion Books, says that publishing Seesaw was “one of the best decisions I ever made.” Stevenson says she was intrigued by the “historical fiction, set in a time and place I hadn’t seen written about for children; a female protagonist, which I tend to enjoy; and an object – the Korean seesaw – that provided a physical link between the author and the story.”

After Seesaw came The Kite Fighters in 2000, about two brothers in 15th-century Korea who compete in the New Year kite competition, secretly representing the boy-King by flying his kite. A Single Shard, about a young orphan boy in 13th-century Korea who becomes the apprentice to an acerbic master potter, arrived one year later.

When Park won the Newbery, she became the first Korean American, and only the second Asian American, to win the award; Dhan Gopal Mukerji won for Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon in 1928. …[click here for more]

Author profile: “Child’s Play: The Writerly Life of Newbery Award-Winner Linda Sue Park,” KoreAm Journal, August 2002

TidbitLinda Sue Park was a much lauded guest for the Smithsonian’s Korean American Centennial Commemoration‘s fall program, “Children’s Books,” on September 13, 2003.

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2001



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