HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Author: Bette Bao Lord
Illustrator: Marc Simont
Publisher: : HarperCollins, republished 2019
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lord, Bette Bao. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson (Published in 1984 by HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 2011 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). It is January of 1947, the “Year of the Boar,” and ten year old Sixth Cousin, otherwise known as Bandit, lives with her mother and their extended family, including Grandfather, Grandmother, and various uncles, aunts, and cousins on the Wong clan estate in Chungking, China. Her father, the youngest son of the Patriarch, is an engineer who has been traveling the four seas to seek his fortune. One wintry day, a letter arrives from Father summoning her mother and her to join him at their new home in Brooklyn, NY. Sixth Cousin wants an American name, so after “Uncle Sam” is deemed unsuitable, Grandfather agrees to call her “Shirley Temple Wong.”
Thus, Shirley and her mother make the journey of ten thousand miles, first by boat and then by train, to Father. What kind of house does he have for them to live in? Will Shirley be able to acclimate well and make new friends, or will she be lonely and miserable? And who is this Jackie Robinson that everyone is talking about? This charming story, based on author Bette Bao Lord’s own days when she herself was a newcomer to America, covers the first year of Shirley’s experiences in her new home, including going to school, getting along with neighbors, and learning all about baseball.
One scene involves Father and his friends smoking cigarettes. In fact, Shirley walks alone to the store to buy more cigarettes for them, something that may not have been all that unusual in 1947 but that would be considered inappropriate today. Later, when Shirley accidentally walks into a stickball game, a girl named Mabel curses her out (they use **** in place of the swear words) and beats her up. In another scene, Shirley visits in the home of her school friend Emily, and the two girls sneak a peek at “naked people” in Gray’s Anatomy belonging to Emily’s psychiatrist father. But the mischief is mostly innocent. Someone complained that Marc Simont’s illustrations were “creepy,” but I have no idea why. Most kids will appreciate the warm, naive humor of this timeless classic.