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Making Friends with Billy Wong

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  72 reviews
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-America
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published August 30th 2016 by Scholastic Press
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  285 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Amy-Jo Conant
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it

This is a wonderful little book that surprised me. It's a fairly short read so the time commitment is short but the payoff is big. I am absolutely including this as a book club choice.

This is considered historical fiction (taking place during the summer of 1952) but it's not over the top or in your face historical fiction. You could take this story and easy drop it in a modern setting and the reader would be none the wiser. However, there are enough historical elements for readers to lea
Linda Williams Jackson
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Augusta Scattergood has a knack for nailing the middle grade voice and for really setting the stage in historical fiction. I loved her books Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny, so I was looking forward to reading her newest work Making Friends with Billy Wong.

Like Glory Be, Making Friends with Billy Wong holds a special place in my heart because, like the author, I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. Although this particular novel is set in Arkansas, I'm sure there was not much d
Mississippi Library Commission
Artistic Azalea is shy and not good at making friends, especially with boys. Billy is outgoing, smart, and athletic. Azalea visits her grandma one summer to help her while she recovers from a fall. She discovers that she has more inner strength than she had previously thought, taking on bullies and making new friends. Billy and his family will be of particular interest to readers, as the story of Chinese immigrants to the Mississippi Delta is little known. Highly recommended.
Sarah Levy
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Boy did I love Billy's voice in this story! While he wasn't the main narrator in this novel, his chapters were my favorite!
Alex  Baugh
It's 1952 and Azalea Ann Morgan, 11, isn't too thrilled about being dropped off at her grandmother's house in Paris Junction, Arkansas. Azalea had big plans to hang out with her best friend Barbara Jean at home in Tyler, Texas and to visit the Grand Canyon with the parents. But Grandma Clark has hurt her foot and needs help with her house and garden, and even though Azalea and her grandmother are virtual strangers to each other, Azalea's mother agreed to let her stay for the summer.

Azalea is a s
Emily Montjoy
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! The heart of the story is friends come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Give people who are different than you a chance, and you might have more in common than you think! The main character, Azalea, leaves her home in TX to stay with her Grandma and help out for the summer. Reluctantly at first, she becomes friends with a Chinese boy, Billy Wong. Set in Arkansas in the 1950's, this story offers a slice of history and the struggles many faced to fit in and be accep ...more
Amanda Schreiber
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this story by Augusta Scattergood!

Such a unique perspective about life in the South during the 1950's. Loved the prose & poetry chapters told by both the main characters. Although, Azalea's story is the driving force, Billy's poetic chapters were some of my favorites! I ordered five copies for my Civil Rights Book Club! Also, don't skip the author's note - I learned so much about Chinese immigrants from Augusta's research. A must read historical fiction for all middle grade readers. Great
Cheriee Weichel
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020mustreadf
This is why I have MustRead lists. It's been on my list for the past few years and I finally got to it. It's the story of a girl and her grandmother. It's about making mistakes and reconciliation. It's about friendship. It's a reminder to look deep beneath the surface to understand where others are coming from.
Set in 1953, this historical novel features Azalea as the main protagonist, but Billy Wong's perspective is shown in alternate verse chapters. It's a powerful format that enables readers
Holly Mueller
Thank you, Augusta, for sending me your newest book, an historical fiction story about Azalea and Billy, and a whole lot more. This one reminded me a lot of Glory Be in that it is a story about ordinary children trying to figure out why not everyone is treated the same. Azalea is dropped off at her grandmother's house in Arkansas in order to help her out while her grandmother nurses an injured foot. Azalea is not happy about spending the summer with Grandma Clark, especially after the greeting, ...more
Cara Cahill
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This is a story of friendship. It is set in the 1950's where Azalea is dropped off in Paris Junction to spend time with her grandmother, that she barely knows. Azalea is an introvert, so being in a new place, among new people is hard for her.

She begins to become friends with Billy Wong, a Chinese-American. This story offers students a look into the history of the south and the struggles people faced when viewed as "different". At its heart, it teaches students that friendship comes in all sizes
Scott Fillner
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Grow up can be a very hard thing even if you have family. But spending time with a relative you hardly know, in a unfamiliar town can be even more challenging.
Azalea spent the summer with her grandmother in Paris Junction, Arkansas learning about life, friendships, and telling the truth. Azalea learns about being careful about jumping to conclusions. She also learns that everyone in a family is different and every family is different.
If you are looking to read a great story about growing up and
Carol Baldwin
One of the writing blogs I follow is Writer Unboxed. When I find an article by one of their contributors in Writer's Digest, I pay extra attention.

Soon after completing Augusta Scattergood's middle grade novel, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG (Scholastic Press, 2016), I read David Corbett's article "To Change or Not to Change?"(Writer's Digest, January, 2017). Thanks to Corbett, I found a terrific template to review Augusta's book. (Quotes from his article are in bold.)

Every story implicitly ask
Ms. Yingling
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

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
Paris Junction, Arkansas, is the last place eleven-year-old Azalea Ann Morgan has ever wanted to be. But when her maternal grandmother needs help, her mother drops her off to help out around the house, and then returns to Texas. It takes time before Azalea can understand her grandmother's ways and figure out how to navigate the ways of the small town. Even while a friendship with Billy Wong whose family owns Lucky Foods Grocery unfolds, Azalea becomes uncertain about whether she can trust Willis ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
2019 bk 287. To the world of juveniles, this is a book about relationships with grandparents, learning about parents, and learning to make friends with new people. To adult readers, this is a book about shyness, anxiety, family angst, the ugliness of segregation as it was imposed on people in the south in the 1950's, and gossips.
In what seems like a blink of an eye, Azalea's plans for the summer are changed when her mother receives a message from her mother that a bad fall has left her unable t
Reading is my Escape
Friends come in unexpected ways....  

I didn't know why so many Chinese people lived here and I sure didn't understand why one school needed to be better than another school or why you couldn't go to whichever school you wanted to. If I paid attention and listened, maybe I'd find out.
- Chapter 6

Azalea doesn't want to spend the summer with her grandmother, who she barely knows. But, her grandmother is injured and needs help, so her parents take her there and leave her for the summer. Azalea doesn
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eleven-year-old Azalea feels wronged when her mother announces at the beginning of her summer vacation that she will be traveling to Paris Junction, Arkansas. Her grandmother needs help getting around after a major fall, so her mother volunteers Azalea to take care of her. Full of trepidation, Azalea leaves her best friend in Texas and finds a new set of young people in Paris Junction. These children who are about her age are helping her grandmother with her gardening, while she's healing. Azale ...more
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Yesterday started with a plan, a plan for productivity. The gardens in my newly purchased home are out of control; left to grow with abandon by the previous owners and frankly, not at the top my list until now. Working in them is no easy task. The hot summer temperatures combined with the lack of rain makes the soil (clay) like working in cement. Just as I was about to head out the door promising myself to get, at the very least, the front area completed, torrential rains fell.

The book held in m
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contenders
So, I like this book! Rooted in historical truth, the kid in me identifies with Azalea, who is sent to help her grandmother for the summer. All alone, with an old woman she hardly knows, Azalea can only think of how she might have been visiting the Grand Canyon with her parents. Instead, she is tasked with overseeing three other kids who are helping Grandma: a high-falutin' goody two shoes, a juvenile delinquent, and a Chinese boy (does he even speak English?). Fortunately for Azalea, surprises ...more
Sarah Trapp
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Set in 1950's Arkansas, Making Friends with Billy Wong is a sweet story about friendship and overcoming prejudice. Soon-to-be sixth grader Azalea is unceremoniously dropped offed in Arkansas to look after her grandma and help out in her garden. Reluctantly and at the insistence of her grandmother, Azalea becomes friends with Billy, whose family owns the Lucky Foods grocery store. Chinese-American Billy has moved to Paris Junction to attend the "white" school in the fall and faces constant prejud ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this book, but I’m giving it three stars because I know I’m going to have a difficult time getting my students to check it out. It’s a great historical fiction story with a loving and kind message, and it is a 2017-19 PYRCA nominee. I wish it had a book trailer or a way that I could “sell it” to my students. I’ve had it out with my new books for weeks now and not one has been interested. I do think it would make a great class read because there are so many good moments for discussion and ...more
Brenda Kahn
I can always count on Augusta Scattergood for gentle, thought-provoking reads. Each of her books have surprised and delighted me for their interesting and complex characters in unique historical settings. Please make time for Making Friends with Billy Wong and allow Azalea to find a place in your heart. The audiobook, narrated by Kate Simses and Todd Haberkorn was just wonderful. Simses' melodic voice just warms the heart as Azalea finds her way.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
More like a 4.5 for the slow start, but I loved this book! I appreciate how the "bad" guy was still the bad guy at the end of the book. I think it could really open up discussion with students about how sometimes people act out or pick on people because things aren't going well in their lives. I like how Billy responded to the hurtful things Willis said. I can't wait to talk this book up with my students.
Set in the civil rights era South and told from the perspective of Azalea, a White fifth grade girl, and Billy, a Chinese American seventh grader. Liked how her story is in regular prose and his is told in a poetic voice.

Appreciated the research the author did into this time and place in history and I learned a lot.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s
I was interested enough in the story to continue reading, but I would have preferred to read a revision with more character development. Really good middle-grade novels don't talk down to the reader, but this one does.
Mary Lee
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Review to follow on the blog.
Jennifer Burton
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
though it was way out of my usual years of reading I enjoyed it.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
Full review can be found at

This novel focuses on Azalea Ann Morgan, a young girl who is sent to live with a grandmother that she barely knows during the summer of 1952. Her grandmother needs some help while she is recuperating from an injury and Azalea has been volunteered for the job. Azalea is very shy and doesn’t like talking to strangers, and more than anything, she misses her best friend back in Texas. Grandmother Clark has a very strong personality and is see
"Daddy taught me to try to see everybody's true heart before you stare at their clothes or their hair or anything else."

It is 1952 in a small town called Paris Junction, Arkansas. Azalea has been called to this town by her grandmother, who has broken her leg and needs her help. Azalea can not believe that her parents are so willing to send her, considering Azalea has spent very little time with her grandmother over the years. And considering Azalea's mother and father fled Paris Junction the mom
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Augusta Scattergood grew up in the Mississippi Delta and left to attend college at the University of North Carolina and library school at Simmons College. But she never really left her home state, even while living in New Jersey.

Her first novel is set in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, 1964. GLORY BE was published in January, 2012, by Scholastic Press. THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, her new middl

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