A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Winner of the Newbery Medal 2002
Tree-ear is a orphan, living with a dear older friend under a bridge in ancient Korea. When he is not looking for food in the rubbish heaps, he is fascinated by the local potters. His biggest dream is to become a famous potter like the men from his village. He finally gets his opportunity to learn from a conatankerous old man, Min. He chops wood for the kiln, hauls clay from the river, but it seems as if Min will never let him actually learn to throw a pot.