Making Friends With Billy Wong

 
4.0
 
5.0 (1)
2130 0
Making Friends With Billy Wong
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
August 30, 2016
ISBN
9780545924252
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Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to look after Grandmother Clark. Even if she didn't care that much about meeting the new sixth graders in her Texas hometown, those strangers seem much preferable to the ones in Paris Junction. Talk about troubled Willis DeLoach or gossipy Melinda Bowman. Who needs friends like these!

And then there's Billy Wong, a Chinese-American boy who shows up to help in her grandmother's garden. Billy's great-aunt and uncle own the Lucky Foods grocery store, where days are long and some folks aren't friendly. For Azalea, whose family and experiences seem different from most everybody she knows, friendship has never been easy. Maybe this time, it will be.

Inspired by the true accounts of Chinese immigrants who lived in the American South during the civil rights era, these side by side stories--one in Azalea's prose, the other in Billy's poetic narrative--create a poignant novel and reminds us that friends can come to us in the most unexpected ways.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

1950s Civil Rights- A Unique Story
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Azalea is looking forward to spending the summer hanging out with her best friend at home in Texas, but when her Grandmother Clark falls, she is sent to help her out in tiny Paris Junction. It's the 1950s, and she is surprised to see a Chinese boy hanging around town. It turns out that he is helping out his uncle, who runs the local grocery, in exchange for being able to go to school in town. In the smaller town where his parents run a grocery, he is forced to go to the substandard Negro school, where there are fewer opportunities. Azalea becomes friends with Billy, but is less thrilled with Willis, who steals gum, throws things at people, and is generally unpleasant. There are, of course, reasons for his behavior, but even once she discovers them, it's hard for Azalea to become friends with Willis. Her grandmother's health improves somewhat, and the two make an uneasy peace, although Azalea still longs for her mother and father. When Billy's uncle's store is attacked, Azalea is somewhat surprised but pleased that most of the town supports the family.
Good Points
This had a lot of good details of daily life in the 1950s, but more importantly, it discussed how people of Chinese descent (some of whom had probably been in the country far long than my German and English ancestors!) were treated. It's surprising that students often have no clue about things like this, so it's good to have books that highlight how much things have changed for the better. Sure, there is still progress to be made, but this fills a much needed gap.

This was very well-researched, and Scattergood uses her own Southern perspective to good advantage.

Readers who liked this author's Glory Be or Levine's The Lions of Little Rock, or who need a gentle reminder that it is possible to be friends with people who are not exactly like ourselves will find Making Friends with Billy Wong to be a compelling and informative read.
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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
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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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