Sheldon—an African American street musician whom Henry passes on his way to and from school—may seem like an unlikely friend for a little Chinese American boy like Henry. But Sheldon immediately takes a shine to the kid and watches out for him, probably because he knows what it's like to be alienated and harassed based on his skin color:
He was a polished jazz player, whose poverty had less to do with his musical ability and more to do with his color. Henry had liked him immediately. Not because they were both outcasts, although if he really thought about it, that might have had a ring of truth to it—no, he liked him because of his music. (3.13)
It doesn't matter that Henry and Sheldon come from different worlds—they both love jazz music and care about each other. Sheldon even comes with Henry to visit Keiko at the internment camp in Idaho, and in the end, it's revealed that they remain friends for their entire lives. Nothing can get in the way of their true friendship. As a fellow recipient of racism and a member of a different race than Henry, throughout the book, Sheldon serves as a subtle reminder that love is superior to hate.