HarperCollins, 2003. 978-0064401753
Synopsis: Shirley Temple Wong is excited to be moving to America from China, but things are harder than they seem. She doesn’t speak English, the kids at school ignore her, and she misses her family in China. But then Shirley discovers baseball, Jackie Robinson, and the Brooklyn Dodgers and it gives her hope. If the son of a slave can become a baseball hero, then surely a Chinese immigrant can also live the American Dream.
Why I picked it up: The title caught my eye when I was shopping for books at a going out of business sale at my local bookstore.
Why I finished it: This book is a classic for a reason: it’s a timeless story of the immigrant experience and how the game of baseball can bring people together. Shirley wants desperately to fit in, but American customs and language completely mystify her. Plus, if she becomes American, does it mean she will be less Chinese? But when she is introduced to the games of stickball in the schoolyard and Red Barber’s voice announcing Dodgers games on the radio, she finds herself more and more becoming one of the group. Over the course of the year, Shirley begins to understand why America is called the land of opportunity. And though we’re not all immigrants, we can relate to Shirley’s need to fit in with her peers. Simont’s illustrations bring life to Lord’s story and helps the reader visualize the struggles of the immigrant class in the years following World War II. The simple drawings without definitive outlines give the drawings a sort of whimsical look, as if they were out of a legend or a myth. This is a little book with a story that shows us that we all have a place and that we can all belong no matter where we come from.
Other related materials: Honus and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman; Jackie and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman; Who Was Jackie Robinson? by Gail Herman and Nancy Harrison, illustrated by John O’Brien; Dragonwings by Laurence Yep; Golden Mountain Chronicles books by Laurence Yep; The Lost Garden by Laurence Yep; The Dragon’s Child by Laurence Yep with Dr. Kathleen S. Yep; A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park; The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang; Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari; A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Michele Chessare; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan