“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 happens: baseball! It’s 1947, and Jackie Robinson, star of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is everyone’s hero. He proves that a black man, the grandson of a slave, can make a difference in America. By watching Jackie, Shirley begins to truly feel at home in her new country, and that America really is the land of opportunity — both on and off the field.”
That’s the synopsis of In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Do you remember this book?
We read it junior high school, all of us kids there in Winterset Middle School sixth-grade Reading. And even the kids who weren’t super hot on reading — the same kids who I was jealous of as they kicked butt in gym and/or chemistry and/or woodworking, I’ll have you know — well, we all dug In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. It’s about baseball, yes, but Betty Bao Lord’s story is also about crying and then smiling your face off because Shirley Temple Wong is so real and trying so hard. Just like we were, all of us kids. It’s the same now, too.
The school system in Winterset is small but mighty. Hometown of John Wayne! And as if that wasn’t cool enough, they knew — they knew — this was an important book. “They” were right.
It’s such a fast, easy read, you could read it in three hours, probably. I won’t tell you what happens in the end. (I’m dying to, but I won’t.) If you don’t know, or if you can’t remember, the ending of this book is like 90 times better than Charlie playing a trombone solo for me. Better than me squeezing avocados at perfect strangers.
The book is better, even, than the fact that after all the achingly excellent crowd-stashing suggestions re: my mom’s fabric — all of them incredible but ultimately leading to not-quiiiiite-enough yardage or yielding the brown version of the fabric instead of the black — Anna Griffin herself heard about the whole thing and sent some to Mom so she could finish her quilt. Could you die??
I know. Me, too. But don’t die. Live, my loves, live! Live, and get to the library. Read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson like you’re just a kid.
You’re a good kid!