What's in a word? It's hard to communicate with people if you don't speak the same language, and in The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, as an immigrant from China to the United States, Shirley Temple Wong has a lot of trouble communicating with her new neighbors and classmates. She feels super lonely at first, but as Shirley immerses herself in U.S. culture, she learns English, and as she does, she finally starts to feel more at home in Brooklyn.
On the flipside, though, her mom worries about Shirley forgetting Chinese and, if she does, her connection to where she's from. Language, after all, is all about connecting.
Questions About Language and Communication
- How does baseball help Shirley become more acclimated to being around other kids?
- Did you find Shirley's mistakes with English funny or not? What did you think of others' reactions to her errors? Did you feel badly for her? Why or why not?
- Is English the only way Shirley learns to communicate with her new friends?
Chew on This
Learning American customs serve to integrate Shirley into American culture more than learning English.
Shirley's most important lessons in communication come not with her parents or elders, but her peers.