At the beginning of Dragonwings, Moon Shadow is a wide-eyed boy who simply wants to meet and love his dad and America. He has heard horror stories and glamour stories alike about the Land of the Golden Mountain, but he has no real idea of what the racial tension in America will mean for his life. He does not know what it means to be away from the Middle Kingdom and his mom and grandmother, and he does not know what it means to have garbage thrown at him while people tug at his hair. In short, there is a lot of fear and misplaced insecurity in the world that he has yet to encounter.
Likewise, the seven-year-old Moon Shadow that opens the book does not know what it is to have friends of his own. From the sounds of it, Moon Shadow's world had always been his family and the farm, whereas America brings him the companionship of the Whitlaws and the Company. He learns about friendship and the meaning of family in the Land of the Golden Mountain. He learns about people exceeding your expectations and downright impressing you with their depth of heart, like Miss Whitlaw delegating tasks to survivors after the earthquake. Also, it is not until Moon Shadow is in America that he learns the thrill of writing a letter for oneself and of owning a book.
We experience all of these new experiences with Moon Shadow, and we come to trust his openness of heart and mind. With him we learn that our assumptions and preconceptions are not always trustworthy, and that sometimes people who seem closest to you are the ones that can hurt you the most. Black Dog, for example, does more harm to Moon Shadow and Windrider's dreams than any one specific demon. We learn that there is a lot to learn from other people and the world, and that people can surprise you. Most of all, we learn that hope is something that no one can take away from you; hope is more important than any material thing. And, significantly, we learn that hope is something to be shared in order for it to be really meaningful.