In this book, Jackie Robinson represents the true American Dream because of his pioneering run as a star for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Just as Shirley struggles to fit in at school and is perceived as different from her classmates by virtue of her nationality, because of his race, Jackie Robinson had to fight his way to the major leagues of baseball. And just like Shirley, in doing so, he earned the respect of his peers. Unlike Shirley, though, he became the first African-American major league baseball player.
To this effect, Jackie also represents perseverance. He didn't give up just because others didn't welcome him into their fold, and similarly, Shirley doesn't stop trying to make friends just because her classmates exclude her. Nor does she stop trying to learn English just because she fails numerous times before. Like Jackie Robinson, this girl's got serious stick-to-itiveness, and as she makes her way in the United States, she gains a real appreciation for just how powerful she can be here:
Suddenly Shirley understood why her father had brought her ten thousand miles to live amongst strangers. Here, she did not have to wait for gray hairs to be considered wise. Here, she could speak up, question even the conduct of the President. Here, Shirley Temple Wong was somebody. She felt was if she had the power of ten tigers, as if she had grown as tall as the Statue of Liberty. (6.78)
Although the journey to acceptance is difficult, causing loneliness and depression, Shirley is as determined as Jackie Robinson to make a space for herself in this new world. Her fondness and admiration for the baseball legend are reminders, then, of both how hard she must work to make her way, and her ability to succeed.
Now go play some baseball.