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 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 about history of the south, than this is definitely a book you will want to read. 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 shy girl and dreads talking to strangers, and, of course, Paris Junction is full of strangers No sooner does Azalea arrive, then she notices a boy in one of the trees in her grandmother s enormous garden Grandma Clark tells her it s Billy Wong, a Chinese American boy who is staying with his great aunt and uncle, longtime Paris Junction residents and owners of the Lucky Seven grocery But when her grandmother encourages Azalea to make friends with Billy, she hesitates she s never met a Chinese person before, and can t imagine how they could understand each other if one speaks Chinese and one speaks English.It turns out that Billy Wong has no trouble with the English language given that his family has lived in Arkansas for generations Billy is staying in Paris Junction so that he can attend a better school than the school across the river where is parents live And Billy is one of three kids besides Azalea who come to help out in Grandmother Clark s garden Besides him, there is the prissy Melinda Bowman and the town bully and troublemaker Willis DeLoach.Before she knows it, Azalea is speaking and to strangers, and becoming friends with Billy Wong, hanging out and riding their bikes around Paris Junction Which is how they discover Willis DeLoach s secret Willis, whose mother is in the hospital, is home alone in at trailer in a pecan grove, taking care of his little sister And Willis DeLoach hates Billy Wong He s already in trouble at the Lucky Seven grocery, and continues to steal bubble gum from them whenever he can Shortly after discovering Willis and his sister at the trailer, the Lucky Seven is vandalized and everyone immediately jumps to the conclusion that it is the work of Willis Everyone, except Azalea, who actually knows where Willis was the night of the vandalism.Though the vandalism of the Lucky Seven stands at the center of this novel, there is a lot going on for Azalea For one thing, her first night at Grandma Clark s she broke what appeared to the an old, maybe valuable plate and is afraid to tell her grandmother And what happened between her grandmother and her parents that caused the estrangement between them, so that Azalea was never able to get to know her grandmother, or her now deceased grandfather, before And finally, what is inside the locked shed in Grandmother Clark s garden, the one she forbade Azalea from going into, and yet why is there light coming from it at night, even when her grandmother is home, snoring in her bed Making Friends with Billy Wong is my favorite kind of middle grade novel I picked it up and couldn t put it down The story is told mainly from Azalea s first person point of view, an outsider to Paris Junction and someone who can record what she sees with clarity than perhaps its residents Interspersed are Billy s first person thoughts, written in poetry or in the style of a journalist he wants to join the school newspaper , in which he writes about his hopes for his new school and his life, and about dealing with the racial prejudice he experiences on a daily basis in this 1952 segregated south I ve always liked the way Augusta Scattergood handles her characters, regardless of the role they play in one of her novels She treats them with respect and in return, they reveal themselves calmly, naturally and unselfconsciously, yet they are not without flaws, The same can be said about her southern settings, a setting in which she is very much at home And I really loved that Scattergood gave us a grandmother turned out to be different from the usual array of unknown grandmothers Grandma Clark welcomes Azalea, treats her with nothing but kindness and turns out to be a pretty unique person in her own right She s fair and open minded, so why did Azalea s parents want to get away from her as quickly as possible, and refuse to let her get to know her grandchild for so long The answer may surprise you, it did Azalea.I can honestly say I enjoyed reading Making Friends with Billy Wong every bit as much as I enjoyed reading Scattergood s previous two historical fiction works Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny my reviews Like them, this is also a wonderfully well written, very well researched story about family, friendship, bullies, hate, overcoming personal challenges and learning to not jump to conclusions.Be sure to read Scattergood s Author s Note to learn about the little known, but large Chinese population in the south in the 1950s and 1960s and what inspired this novel This book is recommended for readers age 8 This book was sent to me by the authorThis review was originally posted on Randomly Reading 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. 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 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 for teaching empathy tolerance WeNeedDiverseBooks 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 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 accepted by those around them. Thank you, Augusta, for sending me your newest book, an historical fiction story about Azalea and Billy, and a whole lot 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, Appreciate you being here, but don t expect coddling Never coddled your mother Don t plan to start with you Which I m sure Johnny Morgan, that daddy of yours, does Azalea pines away for her home in Texas, but soon she is immersed in life in Paris Junction She meets Billy Wong, a boy whose family owns the Chinese grocery store, Lucky Foods He has a voice of his own through small poems throughout the book His story is that his school, the Chinese Mission School, closed, and he will be attending the public school in Paris Junction The town bully, Willis, soon makes his appearance as a good for nothing, harassing Billy and his family, stealing items from their grocery store, and getting accused of vandalizing Lucky Foods Azalea finds out he has a story of his own, of course, but that doesn t change him or Azalea s feelings about him much Other problems loom over Azalea the broken plate, the strangers in the shed, telling the truth, Melinda and her friends, the relationship between her grandmother and her parents, and missing home However, lots of things get mended as well, and this leads to a satisfying ending I love summer stories, stories of days gone by, and stories of childhood filled with ordinary problems against a back drop of history Scattergood is an expert at all these elements, and this book has them all. 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, shapes, and colors I found myself drawn to the characters in this book From say it like it is Grandma Clark s lessons on being open minded and empathetic and she reminded me a lot of my own grandmother to Billy s lonely voice which provided a glimpse into how people can feel when discriminated against Even the bully Willis pulled at my heartstrings because I could see so many of my students in him. GRL VThis 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 learn a little about prejudice against Asian American in the south during the 50 s Azalea works through her anger about being dropped off in a town with her grandmother she hardly knows Over the course of the book, Azalea grows as a person and so does her relationship with her grandmother.The characters are real and endearing They are easy to get to know and love You get to journey alongside a very an awkward young girl who is working on building a friendship with someone she never expected would be her friend It s the way the author builds the characters that you don t even notice how much you care about them until it counts The characters have depth and one, in particular, is surprising and allows for readers to think about difficult themes such as what makes someone bad Are they really bad or perhaps is it a result of a situation out of their control Even the most horrible of characters in the story starts to grow on you in their own way The ending creates closure a nice sense of closure for the reader Overall a very sweet slow moving read that is likely to leave you smiling and feeling good. 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 difference in what was happening in Mississippi.Augusta Scattergood has educated me by showing me a side of history that I didn t realize when I was coming of age in the late 70s and early 80s that the Chinese people in my community had suffered racism just like all the other marginalized groups This is an important book for young readers, so I hope it gets the widespread distribution that it deserves.