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The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963by Christopher Paul Curtis
Synopses & Reviews
When his parents decide it is time to visit Grandma, ten-year-old Kenny and his siblings, including the "juvenile delinquent" Byron, journey to Alabama during a dark period in American history. Reprint. Newbery Honor. Coretta Scott King Honor.
A 1996 Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor book, this comic tale, narrated by a 10-year-old boy, describes an eccentric family's unwitting trip South to visit Grandma during one of the stormiest times of the Civil Rights movement. PW's boxed, starred review called it "an exceptional first novel." Ages 10-up. — Publishers Weekly, 10/27/1997
Gr 6 Up Kenny's family is known in Flint, Michigan, as the Weird Watsons, for lots of good reasons. Younger sister Joetta has been led to believe she has to be overdressed in the winter because Southern folks (their mother is from Alabama) freeze solid and have to be picked up by the city garbage trucks. Kenny, the narrator, does well in school and tries to meet his hard-working parents' expectations. After a string of misdeeds, Mr. and Mrs. Watson decide that tough guy, older brother Byron must be removed from the bad influences of the city and his gang. They feel that his maternal grandmother and a different way of life in Birmingham might make him appreciate what he has. Since the story is set in 1963, the family must make careful preparations for their trip, for they cannot count on food or housing being available on the road once they cross into the South. The slow, sultry pace of life has a beneficial effect on all of the children until the fateful day when a local church is bombed, and Kenny runs to look for his sister. Written in a full-throated, hearty voice, this is a perfectly described piece of past imperfect. Curtis's ability to switch from fun and funky to pinpoint-accurate psychological imagery works unusually well. Although the horrific Birmingham Sunday throws Kenny into temporary withdrawl, this story is really about the strength of family love and endurance. Ribald humor, sly sibling digs, and a totally believable child's view of the world will make this book an instant hit. Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY — School Library Journal, 10/01/1995
"...warmhearted and luxuriously padded with humor." — Michael Thorn, Literary Review, September 1997
The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.
When Kenny Watson’s brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, the Watson family heads south to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandma’s church is bombed.
Nine-year-old Kenny narrates this story about his middle-class African-American family and their 1963 trip from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama. The trip's purpose is two-fold--to visit their grandmother, and to get Kenny's older brother away from the rough crowd he has been running with. Sadly, racism rears its ugly head as the family travels through the South, eventually culminating in the bombing of Kenny's grandmother's church while his younger sister and many others are inside.
About the Author
Christopher Paul Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan, and grew up there. Bud, Not Buddy, his second novel, winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award, is available in a Delacorte hardcover edition.
From the Paperback edition.
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