Study Guide

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Chapter 4

By Bette Bao Lord

Chapter 4

April: A Hungry Ghost

  • Our girl's pretty much on her own at school, and Shirley feels really lonely after a while. No one pays attention to her, and she can still only speak a few words of English.
  • She sees a bunch of kids playing stoop ball and shies away…
  • Just then, though, a kid name Joseph asks her to play. Yay. Not everyone's excited about having Shirley on the team, and she doesn't play well, but she is still super happy to be part of the action.
  • Even though Shirley can't play baseball for beans, she loves being included and wants to make friends.
  • The next day, everyone in class—except Shirley—has to recite a poem. Determined to be part of her class, Shirley learns one anyway, memorizing one of her father's records.
  • Everyone's surprised when she stands up and recites the poem, and Shirley's dismayed when they start laughing.
  • She's super-embarrassed. What went wrong? It turns out that Shirley was mimicking a record of Mickey Mouse and his pals. She feels humiliated and sulks a lot.
  • In an effort to cheer her daughter up, Shirley's mother signs Shirley up for piano lessons. Shirley trains with Señora Rodriguez, the landlady; she hates playing piano.
  • To her surprise, the day is livened up by the presence of Señora Rodriguez's parrot, Toscanini, who chants the name of the correct note if Shirley plays it. Cool trick, right?
  • Shirley and the Señora begin to sing along and she starts to enjoy her lessons a bit… but still, Shirley feels lonely at school. She has no friends to complain to….
  • … but then Shirley spies another Chinese girl at school. She's so psyched about having a friend who knows her world, and is shocked to discover that the other girl doesn't speak Chinese and is American.
  • During spring break, Shirley mopes about, until her father gives her roller skates. She tries to learn to skate, but instead she just falls and winds up with lots of bruises.
  • When her mother demands the skates back, Shirley cries. Her mom relents and says her father can skate with her, but independent Shirley isn't having it.

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