Hi, Augusta Scattergood! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for dropping by to answer my questions and share the cover for Making Friends with Billy Wong!
Please tell us about the two characters and the bicycle featured on this gorgeous cover.
Augusta: Thanks, Mr. Schu, for inviting me. Those two characters are Azalea Clark and her new friend Billy Wong. Azalea has left her home in Texas and come to help her grandmother in Paris Junction, Arkansas, where the last person she expected to meet was a Chinese boy working in his family’s store. Billy uses his bike for grocery deliveries and to ride along the stream looking for frogs. Azalea hopes she doesn’t crash hers into a tree.
I hope Azalea doesn't crash. :)
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What planted the seed for Making Friends with Billy Wong?
Augusta: A few years ago, I read an essay written by my high school friend, Bobby Joe Moon, about growing up in the Mississippi Delta during the segregated years of the 1950s and 60s. As I researched and read more about the large population of Chinese immigrants who settled in the South after the Civil War, I knew there was a story. Two unlikely friends, so different, with plenty to say!
Can you write on the road?
Augusta: Only if I’m in a quiet spot with very little happening. Come to think of it, that’s not so different from the way I write at home! No music, no distractions. (I’m easily distracted.)
Do you have any writing rituals?
Augusta: My writing rituals include getting up very early, sitting at my computer, and not moving for a while. When I get stuck, I take a walk, often with notebook in hand. But I love my Scrivener writing software so eventually I have to get back to the computer and fill in the blanks! And there are a lot of blanks when I begin a project.
As you know, one of the best things about being a teacher-librarian is sharing books with readers. Please share some recently released or forthcoming titles you’re excited about.
Augusta: My reading list is always jam-packed with great books. Right now I’m reading about old movies and Shirley Temple (research!). I’ve been channeling my inner-Nancy Drew and finishing a fun, exciting debut novel by C.M. Surrisi, The Maypop Kidnapping. Last week I reread Kirby Larson’s newest, Audacity Jones to the Rescue. Kirby, Barbara O’Connor, Susan Hill Long and I worked on our four 2016 books together at a writing retreat. Finally, I get to share those terrific novels as they spill out into the reading universe.
Please finish these sentence starters:
On August 30, 2016, you’ll find me celebrating! I’m pretty excited about my new book.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me, "What’s the most surprising student question you’ve ever been asked?"
“What do you and your author friends talk about when you’re together?”
And as much as I adore talking to kids about writing and reading and books, my lips are sealed on that answer.
Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood | Scholastic Press | Publication Date; August 30, 2016.
Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to look after Grandma Clark. Even if she didn’t care that much about meeting new sixth graders at the Tyler Elementary Back-to-School Picnic 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, the 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 two stories told side by side—one in Azalea’s prose, the other in Billy’s poetic narrative —create a poignant novel that reminds us all that home is where our hearts reside and that friends can come to us in the most unexpected ways.