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In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

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Shirley Temple Wong sails from China to America with a heart full of dreams. Her new home is Brooklyn, New York. America is indeed a land full of wonders, but Shirley doesn't know any English, so it's hard to make friends. Then a miracle-baseball-happens. It is 1947, and Jackie Robinson, star of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is everyone's hero. Jackie Robinson is proving that a black man, the grandson of a slave, can make a difference in America and for Shirley as well, on the ball field and off, America becomes the land of opportunity.

176 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1984

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About the author

Bette Bao Lord

15 books50 followers
Bette Bao Lord is a Chinese American writer and civic activist for human rights and democracy.

With her mother and father, Dora and Sandys Bao, she came to the United States at the age of eight when her father, a British-trained engineer, was sent there in 1946 by the Chinese government to purchase equipment. In 1949 Bette Bao Lord and her family were stranded in the United States when Mao Zedong and his communist rebels won the civil war in China. Bette Bao Lord has written eloquently about her childhood experiences as a Chinese immigrant in the post-World War II United States in her autobiographical children's book In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. In this book she describes her efforts to learn English and to become accepted by her classmates and how she succeeds with the help of baseball and Jackie Robinson.

Bette Bao Lord is a distinguished international best-selling novelist and writer, and served as chair of the Board of Trustees of Freedom House.
Her second novel, Spring Moon (1981), set in pre-revolutionary China, was an international bestseller and American Book Award nominee for best first novel. The Middle Heart (1996) spans 70 years of modern Chinese history, ending in 1989 with the student-led demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. Her children's book, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, has become a classic used in schools nationwide. Her true stories of Chinese people, Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic, was also a bestseller and chosen by Time Magazine as one of the five best non-fiction works of the year. Ms. Lord's works have received numerous awards and been translated into 15-20 languages.

In addition to chairing Freedom House, Ms. Lord has served on many other boards including the Newseum, The Freedom Forum, the International Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Council on Foreign Relations and WNET.
Bette Bao Lord received an MA from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and her BA from Tufts University. She married Winston Lord, later an Ambassador to China, in 1963, and they have a daughter, Elizabeth Pillsbury, and son, Winston Bao.

Bette Bao Lord is a recipient of seven honorary degrees (including Notre Dame, Tufts, and Pepperdine) and many awards as author, democracy advocate and outstanding immigrant. These include the USIA Award for Outstanding Contributions. President Clinton in 1998 presented her the first Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and hailed her as "someone who writes so powerfully about the past and is working so effectively to shape the future."

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 526 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
July 6, 2016
In Betty Bao Lord's autobiographical In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, we meet Shirley Temple Wong who has just emigrated from China to Brooklyn, New York. It is 1947 and 10 year Shirley has come to the United States at a time when there is opportunity for all Americans. And no American represented the American Dream more than Jackie Robinson, star second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Before Shirley discovered baseball; however, she was an outcast amongst her peers because she struggled with both English and American customs. It wasn't until her classmate Mabel introduced her to America's national pastime followed by a class discussion on baseball, did Shirley begin to feel comfortable as an immigrant to our great land. Then, she had to balance being Chinese and respecting her homeland with being American and playing baseball and rollerskating and all the other games that kids played in the 1940s.

As she came of age, Shirley gained more responsibilities. She babysat one year old triplets in her building and then opened a savings account at a nearby bank. Then, she pet sat her piano teacher's bird and assisted her father maintain the building while her teacher went to Puerto Rico to visit family. Yet baseball was the one entity that propelled Shirley to become an American. She could not miss a single Dodgers' game and felt that by listening to the radio she was spurring her heroes closer to the pennant.

As a baseball lover, I could relate well to Shirley as a girl who loved baseball more than anything else. I thought the book was charming and wholesome as we learn about the immigrant experience through a child's eyes. We see a melting pot of cultures in a public school setting and also in the Wongs apartment building. All of these immigrants are encouraged to live their dreams by barrier shattering ball player Jackie Robinson.

This book is appropriate for middle grade elementary school students. This is also a fitting book for those ages in school as it would help generate class discussions on immigration, the American dream, civics, and breaking down prejudices. A refreshing book for kids and adults, I recommend it to all baseball fans and non baseball fans alike.
Profile Image for Tara.
23 reviews
January 9, 2009
This is one of my favorite books to share with my fourth grade students. There are so many mini lessons that can be taught that I have to pick and choose carefully in order to keep from spending too much time on it! It helps my students relate to my non-English speakers and the ones who are just beginning to grasp the language. I use it to teach idioms, similes, and metaphors. We discuss dealing with bullies while also discussing the rich vocabulary within the text. Plus, my students laugh out loud every year! Truly a fun learning experience that I would recommend for any 4th or 5th grade classroom.
Profile Image for Jewell.
Author 29 books1,398 followers
April 12, 2012
All American children should read this lovely book about the journey of Shirley Temple Wong to her American home. At first she cannot speak English to the other children in the school, and she is unhappy and deeply lost. She finds solace in listening to baseball on the radio, when Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Baseball not only helps Shirley get a grip on America soil, but also serves as a great metaphor. In China, rules and hierarchies and traditions are set in stone. In America, anyone can become anything. Anyone can be great like Jackie Robinson.
And yet, Shirley will always love the traditions of China. In one beautiful scene, she enjoys moon-cakes with her family. Though it isn’t easy, Shirley finds the balance between the old and the new, as all immigrants have to do. As the issue of immigration in America increasingly takes center stage, The Year of the Boar is a timely book as well as a good one. After a rocky start, her classroom opens up to embrace Shirley and her heritage. All our classrooms should strive to do as much.
584 reviews26 followers
March 4, 2017
This is a positively charming and delightful book for elementary and middle school children. Long a favorite of one of my granddaughters, I finally reserved it from the library so we could discuss it. I can understand why she loves it. She has been studying Chinese in a dual-language program since kindergarten and she is now in fourth grade. This book spoke to her. With her background and introduction to the Chinese culture, I am thrilled that she has been exposed to the challenges of immigration, acceptance, developing new friendships, judging, letting go of and keeping traditions, family heritage, awareness, kindness and the importance of family and love. This little book surprised me. I acknowledge lovely writing, poetic at times, and understatement. This author was masterful at inference. How pleased I am that this granddaughter is acquiring a taste for good writing and meaningful reading. Kudos to the author.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
704 reviews29.1k followers
July 10, 2009
I LOVED this book when I was a kid. I think I must have read it five or six times. A recent immigrant, Shirley Temple Wong reminds me of Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Both characters are somewhat naive and get bullied by the other kids when they try to fit in. It's a remarkably poignant book.
Profile Image for Jonathan Peto.
254 reviews47 followers
December 18, 2015
This story chronicles an immigrant experience during the mid-1940s. A Chinese girl changes her name to Shirley Temple Wong when she learns that she and her mother will join her engineer father in multicultural Brooklyn, New York. She arrives with lots of enthusiasm and no English language skills.

The description is beautiful. I read this aloud to a class of fourth graders and was amazed how often I could highlight the author’s use of figurative language, though I only did it occasionally of course. Paragraph after paragraph, similes flood the pages without crawling all over or damaging each other.

The main character, Shirley, is also very well written because the scenes are simple, but highly enjoyable and illuminating. We witness how a positive start turns into rejection. We worry right along with her.

My students decided the story problem was Shirley’s isolation. Once she was clearly accepted by her classmates, they wondered why the book went on for a few more chapters. As I read, we analyzed the last chapters for the resolution of another problem and concluded that it had to do with Shirley’s split identity.

The story occasionally suffered from what I think was an outdated style. At times, the elevated language put too much distance between me and Shirley, since it did not seem to be her voice, at least not fifth or sixth grader Shirley. The author also emphasized her theme of a split identity, of competing identities, in a heavy-handed way, something I think most authors today would avoid. Jackie Robinson also makes an appearance at the end, which was a bit too convenient for my tastes.

Finally, although I am an American, I am not a fan of notions of American exceptionalism. Since I was reading this aloud to students, few of whom, if any, are American, I was embarrassed twice by passages of unabashed, jingoistic, American exceptionalism. Those passages seemed to imply that Shirley and other immigrants must believe the United States is the greatest nation on Earth to fully assimilate. It was amusing in a way, and interesting, because it is not how immigrant experiences are framed today. It was an opportunity for conversation with my students about how attitudes have hopefully changed. At some future point, I hope to remind them of the book so we can discuss how this notion of being the greatest seems to wreck havoc in other nations too, such as Japan...
Profile Image for Ericka Clou.
2,189 reviews169 followers
July 3, 2022
My 3rd grader was assigned this book in school so I read it too. The author made some strange choices for a book for young children. I was surprised it was published in the 1980s because it reads like it was published in the 1940s, the period of time it covers. This is all somewhat complicated by the fact that the book is semi-autobiographical but for a children's book the out-of-date quality makes it seem like it should no longer be the go-to book for reading assignments.

1) The conversation regarding "negro" students was uncomfortable without providing enlightenment to young readers.

2) Shirley and her friend take a blood oath. While children have done that sort of thing forever- it's not great to have young readers pick up on this idea without adults explaining how dangerous this practice is.

3) Shirley and her friend look at a book of naked pictures and while Shirley's view is comical, I'm left wondering how my prepubescent 3rd grader will understand this scene.

There are many more examples of things that read poorly in 2019.

From the title you would assume this book would cover some important race or immigrant issues, but it sort of just drops in the issues without really resolving anything in a way that would be meaningful to children or even adults. A swing and a miss, to borrow the language of baseball.
August 1, 2019
this is a good book for children to read about cultural differences and what children from other countries feel when they do come here. besides that, this book was good, for it gave a lot of detales and it showed that children are quick adapters to there new world and I love how Shirly Temple became a Lover of baseball. would recommend to a school or a younger person but for as oldies not so much.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,012 reviews67 followers
March 3, 2022
First Middle Grade March read 2022. I loved this! I love that it starts with Shirley in China. It’s such a vivid picture of the closeness of her clan there and the wholly different culture with its own values, names, and rhythms. To Shirley, the year is the Year of the Boar.

Shirley’s father has gone to the US already and Shirley and her mother travel to meet him. They take a boat across the Pacific and the description of the waves is amazing: “The sea was not calm, nor deep green like jade. It writhed like a fierce, black dragon with chili peppers up its snout” (21). They arrive in California and travel by train to Brooklyn where Shirley’s father has work as an engineer and has an apartment ready for them. Shirley starts fifth grade in the local school and we follow her from late February through Christmas, all in the year 1947.

Bette Bao Lord did an amazing job of bringing me into Shirley’s perspective. When she starts at school and speaks hardly any English, I could feel her isolation and her confusion at the clash of cultures. The storytelling is so vivid as Shirley begins to make friends, understand the new cultural norms, embrace baseball, care for those who live in the other apartments in her building, and more. The writing is just what I love about middle grade. It is simple and easy to read, but the words are chosen carefully to bring the story to life. The details are delightful. Shirley is such a lovable character.

I thought the title of the book was strange at first; it’s a mouthful. But now, I think it is a perfect way to show the two cultures that Shirley embodies in the book, her beloved Chinese culture and the American culture that she learns to celebrate as she cheers on Jackie Robinson and learns what he represents to her as an immigrant: in America, you can be free to be what you want to be. The book embraces the goodness of freedom while also honoring Shirley’s Chinese heritage. I think the balance is really lovely.
Profile Image for Katie.
1 review2 followers
March 30, 2008
It's a nice little book about immigrant life, although it lightens up many of the tough subjects maybe a little too much. Nonetheless, the issues are included--losing native language, mixing the old culture with the new, not communicating in the same ways and drifting away from parents' expectations of how the kid should be. It's a great read for kids. My students even clapped when we finished. Aww.
Profile Image for Ann.
782 reviews
May 28, 2020
Many years since I read a book by Bette Bao Lord. This middle grade book, which was on a list of books to read for Asian Pacific American Heritage month, holds up pretty well. An immigrant child’s loneliness and struggle to adjust to life in a new country is well portrayed.
Profile Image for Myrtle.
227 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2021
Ugggggggh. If it wasn't for the fact that I had to read it for my reading challenge, I would of quit it on the first page. It did get better though. At first I would have given it one star. Now I give it one and a half.
Everything was written so confusingly and fake. Half the time I had absolutely NO idea what was happening. And it was obviously not from the forties. It was exactly the same as now only with some old objects like the radio on the front cover.
Just stop!!!!!!
Last but not least, Shirley was so cheesy and even more fake than everything else. Who's named Bandit?!!
End it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
83 reviews21 followers
December 20, 2007
I could have sworn I'd written a review for this book already.

(Edit: Oh, I did write a review for the book, back when there was no cover attached. Here it is, with my re-review below it:

Ugh, why is there no cover photo for this book?

This is one of the few Asian-American YA books I've read, but even if that was a thriving genre, I've no doubt this would be one of the best.

It's the story of a young Chinese girl (around ten, I think) who moves with her parents from China to Brooklyn in 1947 (the year of the boar, and Jackie Robinson's major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers). She is way smaller than any of her huge American classmates, and she doesn't know anything about baseball or Lucky Strike cigarettes or the Pledge of Allegiance. She learns about all of these things in this beautiful story that strikes just the right balance of nostalgia.

Wow. Just thinking about it again makes me want to reread it. It may be my favorite Asian-American novel.)

Anyway, this is one of the few Asian-American YA books I've heard of, and it is a great story. It's about a 10-year-old girl who emigrates with her parents from China to Brooklyn, New York, "in the year of the boar and Jackie Robinson," aka 1947.

Shirley Temple Wong (I know, it's adorable but also totally believable -- after all, my mom named herself after Julie Andrews) struggles to adapt to her new environment feel true-to-life, but everything is touched with that beautiful innocence of children, where ignorant schoolyard bullying can transform into sharing and acceptance thanks to the unifying power of love for baseball.

God, I really love this book. I haven't read it in SO long but I'll have to look for it when I get home.
Profile Image for Laura (Book Scrounger).
739 reviews49 followers
June 27, 2018
This was an enjoyable read about a year in the life of Shirley, a Chinese girl who moves to the United States with her family. The ups and downs of her adjustment to the culture are both sad and humorous at times, and I found her growing baseball enthusiasm to be relatable. The writing covers twelve months in a short book, so some scenes and actions seem like they could have been fleshed out more. I also didn't care for the bullying scene that seemed to imply that accepting violence from a bully is a great way to become their friend. But overall it was a nice look at the time period (1947), the immigrant experience, and the inspiration that Jackie Robinson brought to people from so many walks of life.
Profile Image for Irene.
457 reviews
October 23, 2021
A wonderful story and beautifully written. Though obviously a children's book, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson does not use heavy-handed tactics to get points across. Bette Bao Lord describes Chinese customs and Shirley's reactions to American ways with subtlety and gravitas. The ending was perfect and poignant, and it moved me to tears.

Every Chinese-American should read this book to get a sense of where they and their ancestors came from. Every American should read this book to better understand the immigrant perspective. Shirley's path from frightened newcomer to proud American is as exciting as it is confusing as she learns to navigate and acclimate to a strange new world while also holding on to what makes her Chinese.

I am sure that my 5-year-old would enjoy the illustrations by Marc Simont, and I am also fairly confident that she would appreciate Shirley's story. There are a few incidents of childhood bullying that I might have to edit if I were to read this book aloud to her now, but in any case, I am really looking forward to sharing In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson with her, and with her younger brother when he's older.
Profile Image for Christine Boyer.
318 reviews33 followers
May 22, 2012
This is the third time I've done this book with my students. Great plot, and lots of good themes to discuss: courage, fitting-in, cultural differences, immigration, friendship, loyalty, etc. It also allows for some great projects including Chinese New Year, Chinese horoscope, researching Jackie Robinson and his groundbreaking presence on the Brooklyn Dodgers, and even introducing Shirley Temple! The book takes place in 1947, so we also did a compare/contrast with the America that immigrants came to then versus the America they come to today. We just finished it in class today and the kids loved it.
Profile Image for Chris J.
254 reviews
February 28, 2017
A wonderful, beautiful, touching book about little Shirley Temple Wong, a young girl who immigrates with her mother and father from Chungking, China to Brooklyn in 1947. Funny but never silly, poignant but never sentimental, Lord portrays the joys, sorrows, hilarity and confusion of the immigrant experience in a way that captures the imagination.

I read this to my 11 and 8 year old girls. The book is probably best-suited for the 10-12 age range, but my 8 year old seemed to love it too. I'm afraid this is a bit of a forgotten classic as I have not heard anyone ever talk about it. I only heard of it through the death of Marc Simont, its illustrator.

A must read. I'm serious, damn it.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,654 reviews19 followers
April 26, 2010
We've been listening to this in the car on the way to school in the mornings. I loved this story. For Shirley Temple Wong (love the name) it was a big shock to go from a fairly well-to-do Chinese household to Brooklyn and find herself less well-to-do and alone. I loved the mixture of confidence and uncertainty with which she approaches her new life. I also liked the progression from how new and inexperienced she felt to finding a friend and becoming a true American baseball fan. Wonderful story.
6 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2019
It was cool, and it’s not a school book cause I’m home-school. The hearts I type in are stars❤️🧡💛💚 the broken hearts are how much I don’t like it💔 I hope you like it too!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Aberdeen.
261 reviews30 followers
July 2, 2022
I first read this in elementary school and I think it was one of those many books that I'm rediscovering that subconsciously influenced my love from New York City. And it very consciously contributed to my love for baseball (although not the Dodgers, sorry. 42 forever though.).

There were a few comments I noticed as I reread it this summer that made me a bit uncomfortable—I can't remember them exactly but I think they had to do with American exceptionalism or race. Overall, however, I think it deals really sensitively with what it's like to be an immigrant, with Shirley Temple Wong's love for her new country but also her love for her old and her fear of losing her old identity even as she becomes more and more American.

The characters are wonderful, with quirky, realistic details, all written in a Ramona-esque tone that immediately draws the reader into the mind of a kid. There are some great relationships and compelling character growth for several characters. All in all a book that was a delight to reread and one I will definitely be sharing with my kids.
Profile Image for Katriel.
137 reviews
April 23, 2022
3.5 stars
i would have rated this higher because i really did enjoy this book, and the illustrations are so sweet, but it felt just a bit disjointed. still, the pros far outweigh the cons, and it made my heart happy. <3
Profile Image for Chris J.
254 reviews
July 27, 2021
My second reading. This time I read it with my 8-year old daughter. She very much enjoyed it but I think 10 is a more appropriate age for this one. Not due the content but in order to better understand Lord's descriptions and analogies. Great book.
Profile Image for John.
86 reviews
December 13, 2021
A sweet short story about a little girl emigrating from China to postwar Brooklyn. This is a great look at the difficulties every immigrant has in their new surroundings, as well as the difficult balance between becoming someone new and trying not to lose who you were. Very well written, great for middle grades (or earlier if read to younger kids).
Profile Image for Maria.
407 reviews12 followers
March 21, 2008
I first read this book as a school assignment in elementary school. So long ago in fact that the cover price reads $2.95 and the glue in the binding is so old that pages fall out as I turn them. But although the book itself has not healed up, the story has. Set in 1947 it is a charming story of young Chinese girl coming to America and what the transition is like. Some of the language made me uncomfortable at first because it sounded so stereotypical. I checked the author to make sure it wasn't some random Caucasian trying to write an ethnic story, but the author blurb says that the story is very similar to the authors own experience. So then I just relaxed and enjoyed the story, charming, informative about culture and time period, funny, and in the end I even teared up a little bit.
Profile Image for Sky.
12 reviews
May 20, 2012
How would you feel if you arrived in a new country where you hardly spoke their language, and had trouble fitting in? Scared? Nervous? Excited? Bette Bao Lord writes part of her childhood in Shirley Temple Wong, an immigrant girl who came with her mother to the U.S.A. for a new life, to join her father.

Meeting new friend, facing new challenges, the world is opened in front of Shirley, and then someone comes into her life -- Jackie Robinson, a black player for the Dodgers. Soon she comes to admire the baseball hero, and there starts a whole tale In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.
Profile Image for Alycia.
499 reviews7 followers
June 16, 2016
Definitely one of my favorite books of all time. It has it all-immigration, Brooklyn, history, baseball, cultures clashing and immersing, and great descriptions of food. I have read it at least 20 times and just found a free copy at the library to take home.
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,378 reviews148 followers
December 4, 2017
I'd been meaning to re-read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson for a while - last read in 5th grade, so it's been a minute - but never quite got around to it. But I needed a book to fill my last task for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge and this was available on audio at the library :)

Re-reading as an adult, the narrative does feel heavy-handed at times, but almost 30 extra years of life experience brings out a lot of details I missed. Such as Shirley being just thrown into a fifth grade class despite the fact that she knows almost no English, how diverse her classroom is (hello, Brooklyn in the 1940s), and how some of the language the American kids use hints at larger issues of discrimination (such as telling Shirley to go back to the laundry or calling her Chop Suey). But Shirley's story feels so universal, being the new kid and wanting to belong so very, very badly. I'm glad it held up after so many years.
Profile Image for Beth Anne.
1,226 reviews99 followers
June 21, 2020
Read aloud with the kids. This book was so fun, so well told, a really great family read aloud. In this semi-autobiographical story of a Chinese girl who immigrates with her family to New York City in 1947 each chapter covers one month of the year. It shows how difficult immigration is, from not speaking the language, to learning new culture, to the joy of being American while still working to retain family and heritage. We love the baseball elements, and it was so fun to see Shirley grow over the course of the year through the lens of baseball.
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