In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord (published 1984) tells of one girl’s journey from her traditional Chinese home to New York City in 1947. How can Shirley hold on to her heritage in such a strange land?
At the beginning of the story, the girl is known by her Chinese name, lives with her extended family, and celebrates the holidays in a traditional style in her small Chinese village. When she finds that she is soon to leave to join her father in America, she is both excited and sad. I loved the realistic portrayal of her emotions throughout the story. There were plenty of moments, after she arrived in New York, in which the confusion of the new culture provides a bit of humor to the reader! Now known as Shirley, our girl gets put in a class far above her level, she cannot follow the traditions and misunderstands instructions.
The best part of the novel is that Shirley does find her place. It is a brief novel, perfect for early chapter book readers who are able to read the vocabulary but may be overwhelmed by length. It’s also brief in time. Shirley’s story covers her first year in New York, and although there are happy, sad, embarrassing, and delightful situations, in the end, she and her family find a way to merge their own traditions into those new situations that New York gives them. I loved the tender conclusion to their year, as the holiday previously celebrated in China is now celebrated in their humble apartment.
I highly recommend In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson to the chapter book reader!