The Watsons Go to Birmingham

The Watsons Go to Birmingham

 
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Age Range
12+
ISBN
0385321759
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Emotionally Intense Book

The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, is a profound story told from a captivating 11 year old boy’s perspective. There are many aspects of this book that I would enjoy exploring with children. The poetic prose leaves a lot up to the reader to visualize and interpret which lends itself to being enjoyed by a wide age range. I should note that because of violence and traumatic events the book would be difficult to process with young children. I would not use it in a classroom before 5th grade and only then if I was sure the students were up to it.
The story is narrated by Kenny Watson, an African-American boy with a lazy eye, an older brother, Byron-- an angsty adolescent who picks on Kenny constantly, and a younger sister Joetta—Joey. These three play off of each other and their parents in a series of adventures and misadventures, involving school, friends, status, family, and race that show Kenny how terrible people can treat each other (himself included). In the end, Kenny learns that siblings take care of each other even if they don’t always treat each other well, and that nobody will be able to protect him from the hurt he will experience in the world.

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five star

Reader reviewed by helen

My book review
The Watsons go to Birmingham is a great book to add to your personal library. The author pulls you into the story and makes you feel like you are participating in the events. Christopher Paul Curtis also does a wonderful job demonstrating the historical time period. He wrote the book dedicated to four young teens who experienced the tragedy of a church bombing. These four young women died in the Alabama devastation.
In the 1960s there was still a lot of discrimination in the air. Segregated and non-segregated schools were joining along with many other accommodations. Racial issues were brewing in the south and break-outs of violence were inevitable. One of these break-outs is what changed the Watsons view of life forever.
In the beginning of this book Byron is constantly getting in trouble in their small town of Michigan. First it is minor problems then he starts to get in more serious trouble like burning matches in the house and getting a butter in his hair. Joetta always tries to keep him out of trouble. One day their parents decide they have had enough of their son acting irresponsible and acting like a true juvenile delinquent. They decide that a summer with their grandmother in Birmingham will do the job of making Byron grow up. There was a lot of trouble which just kept growing in the south. Their grandmother needed help and could help Byron become much more disciplined. Instead of spending the summer he only stays a few days when a terrible and horrifying event will bring the Watsons home back to Flint with a new view on life.
The author does a great job explaining this historical time frame. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to any young reader.

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Historical Fiction Entertaines and Informs

Reader reviewed by LaTonya M. Baldwin

_The Watsons Go To Birmingham_ by Christopher Paul Curtis is a great example of using fictional personal experiences to explore history in a way young people can comprehend and appreciate the events. Readers might remember his other historical novels, _Bud, Not Buddy_ set in the Depression Era or _Elijah of Buxton_ set in 1849 in Canada, a settlement of former slaves. The _Watsons Go To Birmingham_ ties one family to one of the most tragic events of the Civil Rights Movement, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls: Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. It is a misnomer to underscore the significance of the history that teaches Kenny and his siblings firsthand how fortunate they are. Until the trip, the Watson children had been insulated from the social turmoil of the day.

Curtis endears the reader to the family through Kenny, the narrator. Kenny is hilarious. I love his catch phrase: "Ready, aim, fire!" The dialogue rings true in my ears. Reminds me of own family in many ways and allows me to participate in apart of my cultural roots that is more fantasy for me but nonetheless connects me to a collective past I value. For many African Americans, weve all got an aunt, grandmother, cousin some family down south. Kenny is full of funny stories like when his brother gets his tongue stuck to a frozen car window or when he talks about how their mother puts so many layers of clothes on his sister that her hair sticks to her forehead by the time he pulls off her outerwear at school and he tells us about fun times listening to the earliest technology in car stereos with his dad..

The Watsons do have financial challenges and everyone who lives in Michigan knows about bitter winters. These are facts of life many working class families know. Whats impressive here is the closeness of the family even with an eldest child who is bent on rebelling. This family is very much intact, functional and loving. I love the pacing and humor of the story and I cant say how glad I am to see a functional, African-American family in this story. Unfortunately, too many children don't know what this is like. Black children need to be exposed to portrayals of families like the Watsons and so do others who see too many dysfunctional homes played out in the media.

The only thing that mentally trips me up is the timing of their vacation and the actual Birmingham bombing. My logical mind doesnt like the gap in time frame. They go down to leave the older boy for the entire summer, but the bombing date is September when school would have been back in session. Still, I can suspend reality in order to connect this story with history.

Curtis does a wonderful job of introducing a piece of American history in an accessible and intimate way. This is the power of literature at its core: an examination of who we are and what we are capable and hope for what we can be.

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Good Ole' Christopher Does it Again!

Reader reviewed by Grace

Now, I bet a lot of you are thinking who the HECK Christopher is. Well, I'll tell ya. He's the hilarious author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy. Honestly, when I heard about The Watsons Go to Birmingham, I was pretty discouraged. I have read Bud, Not Buddy and thought that no book that he could ever write again would be as good. Well guess what? I was wrong! The Watsons Go to Birmingham was actually BETTER in my opinion. Sure, they are both about little black boys living at the time of the Civil Rights Movement, but The Watsons Go to Birmingham
is way more historic and it's a million times funnier. In the story, the Watsons are living through tough times. Money is scarce, and cold weather is slowly freezing the family apart. So, to get thawed out, they go visit their southern-raised Grandma Sands in Birmingham, Alabama. But little do they know that they will witness one of the most tragic events in Civil
Rights history. The Watsons Go to Birmingham is a
PERFECT choice for anyone who loves a good laugh!

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Very funny - Good Lessons

Reader reviewed by Sosh

The story is very humorous from Kennys point of view because he is too young to understand many things. It teaches lessons about racism, being poor, family relationships, and bullying through Kennys experiences, allowing the reader to reflect on a time when he felt the same way. Most people will be able to relate with Kenny's goofy family and childhood experiences.

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Amazingly creative and funny

Reader reviewed by Bettina

The Watsons Go to Birmingham is a great book. It's mostly about things that happened to Kenny, a black boy that lives in Flint, Michigan in the 60s. Many funny things happen to Kenny, but this book also talk about his family. For example, his big brother, Byron gets stuck to the car by his lips. It's alot better if you read it.

I really loved this book because it was really funny. The first chapter pulled me in right away. The author really knew how to make the reader intrested.

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Long live the Wacky Watson's

Reader reviewed by Bookworm9

This book chronicles the adventures of the "Wacky Watsons," an African-American family living in Flint, Michigan in the early '60s. The narrator is middle son Kenny, who is tired of his older brother Byron's bullying antics, and the way his younger sister, Joetta, always sticks up for him. The book is humorous until the Watson's travel to visit family in deeply segregated Alabama, and face the bombing of an African-American church. Then, Kenny is deeply tramatized and must rely on his family to help him realize some life lessons. This is a great book with both humor and insight.

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Watsons shouldn't go anywhere

Reader reviewed by Amanda

Even though I only got through about ¼ of it at school, I didn’t like it. I will tell you all I know about it. So, you’ll see how boring it was. Mind you, in the 6th grade I read it. However, the same year, when my sister was in 4th, she read it too.


All I remember was a bunch of kids. Some of them faced prejudice from Caucasians, which is very sad and awful. Some of them though were just running around like monkeys. I remember one kid got his tongue stuck to something during a snowstorm play. One of the kids became friends with a Caucasian and they played with action figures. For some reason, they go to Birmingham and some kid gets stuck in a whirlpool on the way.


I wouldn’t recommend this for kids, but, if so, ages 10 and up. I give it 1 star because it was so stupid-funny and not really interesting.

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Wrong place, wrong time

Reader reviewed by Skywalker

The Watsons go to Birmingham is about a family that lives in Flint,Michigan and during 1963 goes to Birmingham, Atlanta the family is also black and they go at the wrong time right when the march happens.

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