Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

Lord, B.B. (1984). In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. New York, NY: Harper Row & Publishers, Inc.

Plot Summary:
The book is set in the year 1947. After hearing word from her father in America, Bandit and her mother must leave their family in China and travel to New York to join him. Upon leaving Chungking, her family gives her an American name of her choosing; she becomes Shirley Temple Wong. Shirley and her mother finally arrive to their tiny one room apartment in Brooklyn after a long journey. Shirley begins school and her mother adjusts to life without servants and with washing machines. It takes Shirley a few months to adjust to life, customs, and the English language. She is lonely at first, without any friends. She accidentally interrupts a stickball game one day after school and receives two black eyes from a bully named Mabel. After not squealing on Mabel, the stickball players befriend Shirley and teach her the game. Shirley takes to it immediately, becoming obsessed with baseball, specifically the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. For the rest of the season, she doesn’t stray far from the radio when a game is being played. By the end of the year of the boar, Shirley has adjusted well to life in Brooklyn, but also realized the importance of maintaining her original language and customs.

I love the organization of this book, spread over a year, beginning in China. The author shows the progression of Shirley’s year of transformation from being well versed in Chinese customs, to struggling with English and American customs, to submersing herself in only American customs, and finally finding a balance between her Chinese culture and new life in America. I love that the main character is a girl, who is obsessed with baseball. Shirley’s obsession with the sport is fantastic; it adds a lot of humor to the book. There is a great explanation of why baseball is an America’s favorite pastime and there is a lot of symbolism in Shirley’s embracing of this. I like that the events in the book were drawn from the author’s own life and coming to America. Through Shirley’s experiences she shows the hardships and loneliness of children coming to a new country and learning a new language and all new customs.

historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 12

immigration, self-identity

Award Information:
ALA Notable Children's Book
School Library Journal Best Book

Character Names/Descriptions:
Shirley Temple Wong (Bandit, Sixth Cousin): 10 years old; travels from China to New York with her mother to join her father; loves baseball and Jackie Robinson
Father: Shirley’s father; gets an Engineering job in New York and moves his wife and daughter from China to join him; takes on the job of landlord of their building
Mother: Shirley’s mother; moves from China to New York with her daughter, Shirley, to join her husband; becomes pregnant
Mabel: largest 5th grade girl in Shirley’s class; gives Shirley two black eyes, then becomes her friend; plays stickball; teaches Shirley all about baseball
Mrs. Rappaport: Shirley’s 5th grade teacher
Emily Levy: new girl in Shirley’s class; becomes one of Shirley’s good friends
Jackie Robinson: baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers; hero of Shirley’s

It is 1947, the year of the boar, and the year Shirley Temple Wong leaves her home in China and moves to Brooklyn, New York. Shirley learns English and American customs, falls in love with baseball, and tries to hold on to her Chinese heritage.

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