Study Guide

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Chapter 9

By Bette Bao Lord

Chapter 9

September: Secrets

  • It's September and you know what that means, right? Time for a new school year.
  • Shirley's worried. Toscanini isn't doing well, and who knows what school will bring? Have her pals changed too much? Besides, her mom is nagging her to remember her Chinese, but English is becoming more and more Shirley's instinctive tongue.
  • She's growing up and changing, but is she the still same Shirley? She goes to sleep and dreams that she's back in China and her parents are calling her in different directions.
  • Not sure what to do, Shirley runs back and, when she spots her cousins behind a wall, tries to call out to them, but they point and laugh at her. One uncle even paints a picture of her as a weird looking bird. No need to worry, though—just a dream, and Shirley's still herself.
  • Sixth grade kicks off just fine. All her friends know her, and Mrs. Rappaport is still their teacher.
  • But there's a new addition: a new girl, Emily Levy. Shirley thinks immediately that they'll be friends, as the girl somehow reminds her of Fourth Cousin.
  • She shows Emily around and they chit chat about their lives. Emily's family is pretty intense—they're all really smart.
  • When Shirley first visits Emily's house, there are lots of new things. They're a progressive family—Emily calls her parents by their first names—and her parents are a psychiatrist and a committeewoman, respectively.
  • One day, Emily insists Shirley keep a secret, and swear to do so in blood. Shirley agrees and Emily sneaks them into her dad's office.
  • She opens a book—and there are pictures of naked people inside. Like maps of the human body kind of naked. Shirley's not that into it, but keeps the secret.
  • One night, during a Dodgers game, Shirley gets roped into babysitting for her neighbor Mrs. O'Reilly, who has triplets. She manages to watch the kids while trying to tune into the game on the radio.
  • Finally, after feeding the boys, one says that Sean needs a new diaper… but she doesn't know which boy is Sean. By the time she changes all the babies, the game is over.
  • Sad. But Shirley gets paid and makes bank—literally—by getting a piggy bank from her parents.
  • She now regularly babysits for the O'Reilly boys, but secretly uses her money from babysitting to buy candy to bribe her charges with.
  • Her dad opens a bank account for her to save up for college, and though she's super-excited, she's also not sure how to tell her dad about the candy.
  • Shirley feels ashamed that she hasn't been saving her cash and guilty for not telling her parents. She confesses this all to Emily, who promises to help her save up.
  • But karma works first, and one night when Shirley is watching the triplets, the boys unplug the radio, so she misses a big Dodgers championship game. Sigh.

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