Books Young Adult Fiction The Watsons Go to Birmingham

The Watsons Go to Birmingham

 
0.0
 
4.3 (9)
1025   0
Age Range
12+
ISBN
0385321759
Buy This Book
      

User reviews

Average user rating from: 9 user(s)

Already have an account? or Create an account
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.3  (9)
Characters 
 
N/A  (0)
Writing Style 
 
N/A  (0)
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.
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Anita Benson Reviewed by Anita Benson February 13, 2013
  -   View all my reviews (1)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader November 16, 2008
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.

Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader June 05, 2008
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader June 04, 2008
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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!

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader October 31, 2006
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader February 20, 2006
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader February 06, 2005
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
1.0
Plot 
 
1.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader August 25, 2003
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
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.
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
a reader Reviewed by a reader May 30, 2002
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (20052)

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.

Was this review helpful to you? 
 
Powered by JReviews

LATEST YABC BLOG POSTS - BLOG TOURS, ANNOUNCEMENTS, AND GIVEAWAYS

  • Books Aren't Dangerous Campaign

      Do you remember that book that changed your life as a reader, or maybe just your life in general? You do? That’s great!        Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors of the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series, have started a campaign called BOOKS AREN’T DANG ...

  • TOMORROWLAND - Drive Through Movie Review

    **********NO SPOILERS************ The Nerd Riders, Kristin and Clint, give their thoughts on the new Disney film TOMORROWLAND.    QUESTION: If you could go to an alternate universe what would you want to see there? ...

  • It's live!! Cover Reveal: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu + Giveaway (US/Canada)

    Hi, YABC! Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY by Maria E. Andreu, releasing September 1, 2015 from Running Press. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Maria:   YABC Readers!  I’m so excited to share the pape ...

  • May 2015 YABC Book Haul

    Hey YABCers! Once again, our office has been innundated with books, books, and  more BOOKS! We've run out of shelf space which can only mean one thing .... it's time for the May Book Haul! Enjoy the video and let us know in the comments which books you can't wait to add to your TBR. &nbs ...

  • It's live!! Cover Reveal: Insidious by Dawn Metcalf + Giveaway (US/Canada)

    Hello, YABC! Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for INSIDIOUS by Dawn Metcalf, releasing August 25, 2015 from Harlequin TEEN. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Dawn:   You know when you finish a story, you never really finish because there' ...

  • What's New in YA

      Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases!       A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York ...

  • The Librarian's Corner

      This month's theme for the Librarian's corner is all about picture books you can share with teens! Picture books aren't just for kids and babies anymore. In fact, teens love storytime too!    For May, I am featuring some of my favorite picture books to share ...

  • The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival

        The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival--TBF 2015 Contributed by Kayla King, Blog Manager and Staff Reviewer   Here at Young Adult Books Central, we LOVE YA! Fortunately for us, The Greater Rochester Book Festival held at Nazareth Collge devotes itself to s ...

  • Giveaway: If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski (US Only)

    If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For By Jamie Tworkowski Release Date: May 26, 2015   About the Book In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, ...

  • Giveaway: Nova by Margaret Fortune (US Only)

    Nova by Margaret Fortune   Release Date: June 2nd   About the Book *36:00:00* The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting ...

  • It's live!! Cover Reveal: Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

    Happy Friday, YABCers! Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for BRIAR ROSE by Jane Yolen, releasing April 19, 2016 from Tor Teen.      Ready to see? Scroll, YABCers! Scroll! ...       ...     ...

  • Giveaway: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (US Only)

    EVERY LAST WORD By Tamara Ireland Stone In stores June 16th   About the Book If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.   Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and ...

View more blog entries

Latest Book Listings Added

22635844.jpg
Category: Kids Fiction
Rye O'Chanter was shocked to discover that her father was the leader of the notorious band of outlaws known as...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series has enchanted readers from the very first...
 
3.7
 
3.7 (1)
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
23111784.jpg
Will this Mad Tea Party put Alice in hot water? Alice is rebellion-ready, eager to save...
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is...
 
5.0
 
4.3 (1)
Alias Hook.jpg
"Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative...
 
3.8 (2)
 
3.2 (2)
The conclusion to the bestselling InterWorld series, from Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves! Joey...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship,...
 
3.7
 
3.3 (1)
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Book Award-winning author Brian Katcher’s hilarious he...
 
3.3
 
3.7 (1)
61i%2BU8zcJcL.jpg
Category: Kids Nonfiction
This set of customizable gizmos includes a book of games, pranks, and jokes that make the most of them. The...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Shadowhunters and demons square off for the final showdown in the spellbinding, seductive conclusion to the #1 New York Times...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
I’m the daughter of murdered parents. I’m the friend of a dead girl. I’m the lover of my enemy. And...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Practice Makes Perfect. Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Category: Kids Fiction
Meet Florabelle—a little girl with a BIG imagination! Florabelle just can't seem to pay attention. And although her family can...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Category: Kids Fiction
Nothing goes quite according to plan when Paddington Bear goes to the beach. Especially when, one by one, he is...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Category: Kids Fiction
Join Fancy Nancy as she plans a surprise party in New York Times bestselling team Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)