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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Illustrated by Marc Simont

Ten-year-old Bandit and her mother move from their huge family in China to Brooklyn, NY where her father has been working and creating a life from them.They travel for a whole month on a boat and then fly across the country to her father. Before she can go though, she must pick an American name. She chooses Shirley Temple because that's the only female American name she knows! The book covers the first year of her life in America. Each chapter is a different month. She starts in the fifth grade and doesn't know any English. Shirley tries to make friends and fit in with the other students.

At the beginning Shirley feels a lot of pressure from her mom. Before her first day of school her mom says,
Remember, my daughter, you may be the only Chinese these Americans will ever meet. Do your best. Be extra good. Upon your shoulders rests the reputation of all the Chinese. (p. 43)
The real Shirley Temple
That seems like a whole lot of pressure to put on a ten-year-old and it comes into play later in the story when Shirley is worried about how she has to act because she is representing all the Chinese.

I think this book did a good job of representing what it is like for an English Language Learner coming to the United States. Since Shirley didn't know any English and she didn't understand American culture, she was really lonely and confused about what was right to do. The following passage shows her confusion and misunderstanding of American culture. Many children coming to America may not understand what is expected of them in classroom and socially.
Carefully she sidestepped the boys who played basketball, the girls who roller-skated, the groups who seemed to laugh or whisper whenever she passed. She dreaded the distance across the school yard. It was endless and full of traps. If a loose ball rolled by, should she catch it? If a girl fell, should she help her up? If someone glanced her way, should she wave? (p. 52)
Then when she was presenting a poem she had memorized, everyone in the class, including the teacher, laughed at her. I thought that was really sad and not a good way to help any student, an English Language Learner especially, feel confident in themselves and feel like they can learn and participate in the class.

Jackie Robinson
When Shirley's teacher is telling them about why baseball and Jackie Robinson are important to America, Shirley has a big realization as to why she was brought to America that I think was really powerful.
Here, she did not have to wait for gray hairs to be considered wise. Here, she could speak up, question even the conduct of the President. Here, Shirley Temple Wong was somebody. She felt as if she had the power of ten tigers, as if she had grown as tall as the Statue of Liberty. (p. 93)
One last thing that I thought was really funny is how Shirley said the Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge a lesson to the frog of United States of America, and to the wee puppet for witches' hands. One Asian, in the vestibule, with little tea and just rice for all. (p. 86)
I read this book the other day while we were driving home from Maine. I chose it because we were heading to New York City to stay with Andy's friend and this book took place in Brooklyn. (Here's a picture of Andy and me tourist-ing it up in Times Square!) Even though we didn't go to Brooklyn, it's still relevant and I'm really glad I picked it! I remember the title from when I was in school, but I don't remember reading it. This time I loved the book though. I thought it was great. A great story and very interesting!

There are so many different resources you can find online to use when reading this book as a class. There are activities, lesson plans, quizzes, study guides, and many other things.

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