Review Detail

Kids Fiction 2130
Compelling read about race in the South in 1950s America
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
I thought this was a compelling read on race, but one that wasn't initially obvious. No pun intended, but race and race relations are never a black and white issue. By researching and writing about the Chinese who built the railroads in the South in the 1800s, readers get a glimpse into race relations that involved the Chinese families who came to settle in the area.

Good Points
Augusta Scattergood has done it again. She has written a book that is compelling and artful in its telling about how we encounter - and deal - with race.

In “Making Friends with Billy Wong” our main character, Azalea, has to spend the summer with a grandmother whom she does not know, nor is sure she likes very much. Worse yet, a Chinese boy shows up in the neighborhood, and when she is encouraged to make friends with him, visit his family’s grocery store, and (gasp!) talk with him, she’s not sure she can.

For starters, she isn’t very good at talking with people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t know how to talk with boys…and a Chinese boy?! How will she ever talk with him?

When the need arises, Azalea puts her fears and misconceptions aside and finds out that Billy Wong not only speaks perfect English, he has lived in America his whole life, AND he’s never ever been to China. Turns out, he’s pretty decent and does most of the talking for the two of them, which is just fine with her.

Billy Wong also joins Azalea on a mad adventure to a pecan grove that almost gets out of hand, shows her the history of his family in the South, and teaches her a thing or two about being a good friend.

Scattergood has this gift to write realistic dialogue that accompanies her thorough research, making the characters ring true.

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