Study Guide

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Introduction

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In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Introduction

What's so different about life in America? Everything, as far as Shirley Temple Wong's concerned. We're talking language, gestures, architecture—heck, even her name isn't the same once she arrives in the U.S. from China. So if you've ever felt even a tiny bit out of place or unsure of your surroundings, Bette Bao Lord's In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson just might cure what ails you. Shirley's excellent company if we do say so ourselves.

Though this book is fiction, it's still jam-packed with truth. See, Lord went through the same ordeal as Shirley when she moved to America from China in the 1940s, so she knows firsthand just how hard it is to be the new kid in a new country. On the flipside, though, Lord also knows how easily friendships can form once people find some common ground, which in Shirley and the kids at P.S. 8's case, comes in the form of baseball, particularly the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Baseball's biggest hero in 1947 is Dodger Jackie Robinson, and he becomes Shirley's role model. She can relate to his outsider status—he is African-American and she is Chinese—and she is encouraged to believe in her own potential through seeing him break down race-based barriers to become the first African-American player in the major league.

Though there's plenty of struggle in this book, there's also heaps of hope and, ultimately, triumph. So though it was written in 1984, readers keep coming back to it. And as long as there are outsiders trying to fit in, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson just might be a book for the ages.

What is In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson About and Why Should I Care?

Psst… Come here. We've got a secret to tell you…

Everyone feels like they don't belong sometimes, like a stranger in a strange land. So if you've felt like you just don't belong, then know you're not alone—and if you haven't had this feeling yet, well, just know it's coming. It's hard, but them's the breaks.

Because here's the thing about feeling like an outsider: It's a near universal human experience. Which means it's not so odd after all, no matter how odd you might feel in the throws of the experience. In a funny way, then, in the moment of feeling like you don't belong, you're actually joining a giant club that spans the globe, filled with people who have felt the same way.

Shirley Temple Wong in In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson is just one such person. But she doesn't just offer outsiders the world over some company in their isolation. Nope, her story also reads sort of like a road map for how to find your way in new situations, for how to find friends and walk the line between where you're from and where you are now. So whether you've already felt like you don't belong or you're still waiting for your turn to come, Shirley's here to guide you.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Resources


BBL 101
Here's some basic info on Bette Bao Lord. She's a very accomplished lady, just like Shirley probably grows up to be.

Get Schooled
Looking to really dig deep into all things Ms. Wong? has a three-act play to help you do just that.


Bridging the Gap
BBL chats about immigrating to the U.S. at a young age. Needless to say, it's a big step for a kid.

Double Duty
What's it like to try to be both Chinese and American? The author talks about home and identity.

Activist Extraordinaire
Bette Bao Lord isn't just a writer—she's also an advocate for relations with China. Check out her experience here.


Want to hear BBL's point-of-view on current issues? Check her out in action here.

Kids Tell Their Own Story
Why kids loved In the Year of the Boar—and heart Shirley.


Shirley finds it a bit tough to get used to school in Brooklyn… doesn't she look uncomfortable?

The Real Shirley
Our heroine names herself after this beautifully coiffed child actress.

Mr. Robinson, I presume?
Jackie Robinson was the star player for the Brooklyn Dodgers—and Shirley's hero. What a guy.

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