by Laurence Yep
Robin, the first "demon" kid that Moon Shadow meets, turns out to be all right. OK, so she's clumsy and kind of nosy (like when we meet her, she falls over the door while spying), but mostly Robin is endearingly inquisitive and open-minded. Significantly, Moon Shadow's first peer friend is a young demoness, moved from Missouri to California and without her birth parents. Interestingly, Robin and Moon Shadow share cunningly similar stories.
Although Robin may not know what it's like to come from a different country and continent, but she proves to be perceptive and understanding of how others might feel different or afraid. For example, Robin is curious about Moon Shadow's unintuitive way of carrying water from the pump. She quickly understands, though, that Moon Shadow is threatened by the neighborhood boys. Not only does she get this and keep him company in the backyard by peeling a bajillion potatoes, she actively helps Moon Shadow get over his fear of the taunting demon boys. In fact, she is the only person who recognizes Moon Shadow's fear and does something about it.
In a book where kinship or family is the key to joy, Robin's friendship with Moon Shadow is a big deal because their willingness to be there for one another – across racial, cultural, religious, gender, and linguistic difference – is a model for how creating a sense of belonging can go beyond blood or the idea of sameness. Robin may not always be familiar with Moon Shadow's ways (she's pretty freaked out by that squid), but she doesn't consider the new things as a threat to her. Rather, Robin learns from Moon Shadow (about dragons and airplanes – i.e., pretty boss things) and is fascinated rather than repulsed. She also helps Moon Shadow with his English and gives him his first book.
If we consider Robin's name, we can see how Laurence Yep's naming helps connect the dots to the larger theme of flight in Dragonwings. As you might know, robins are birds with the ability to fly. Robin, the character, is the first person to see the Lees' glider models (other than the creators themselves). This is, of course, thanks to Robin's curiosity and whimsy in following Windrider and Moon Shadow to the beach. And it's no coincidence that Robin wants to hear more about dragons and airplanes from Moon Shadow; both of these things have to do with flight, after all. And actually, Robin does indeed help Dragonwings and Windrider fly by manning one of the propellers. Robins are also approachable kinds of birds, just like Robin the character is friendly and well-meaning. She's not named Hawk or Eagle Eye, for example. And robins are known for their reddish-orange bellies, and guess what color hair Robin has? You got it: red.