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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  31,016 ratings  ·  2,182 reviews
A wonderful middle-grade novel narrated by Kenny, 9, about his middle-class black family, the WeirdWatsons of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny's13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble,they head South to Birmingham to visit Grandma, theone person who can shape him up. And they happen tobe in Birmingham when Grandma's church is blownup....more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published December 12th 2000 by Laurel Leaf (first published January 1st 1995)
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I stayed up super late finishing The Watsons Go to Brimingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t tell you how artful I thought it was… well, let me try.

First, I have a big problem with history (so much so that it is truly embarrassing) and I always have had this problem —I need to know the people and stories behind the events to remember anything. I also have a big problem with reading historical fiction. It often seems so “fixed”—--"Tell some story arou...more
Stephanie Brown
The plot is simple: 10-year-old Kenny (the narrator) has a loving family: a mom and dad, a little sister (Joetta), and a big, tough brother (Byron). Byron starts getting into typical teenage trouble. Kenny's parents decide to take the family on a road trip to visit grandmom in Alabama. They figure she can straighten Byron out with some old-school discipline.

During the family's visit, a church is bombed and 4 little girls are killed (taken from the historical Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that...more
When my 10 year old says, "Mom, you HAVE to read this!" and checks my progress, it melts my heart. I'm only a few pages in, but I'm wondering why my 5th grade teacher didn't offer great books(or any for that matter) for us to read!

This truly is YA. It's full of adolescent antics, lights up the importance of family and told the story of an incident that happened in Birmingham '63. It's an important read for kids and provided the opportunity to talk about the Civil Rights Movement.

My favorite part...more
Adam Wilson
Mar 08, 2013 Adam Wilson marked it as to-read
This is the only other novel I have read by Curtis and I enjoyed it even more than Bud, Not Buddy. I did not have to read this one in school so I had to track it down myself. I remember listening to the audio version at age eleven or twelve and loving the Watsons and all of their random adventures. The first incident, the one where the elder brother gets his lips stuck to a car mirror in winter because he was kissing his reflection, is one of my favorite moments in fiction so far. The brothers t...more
This was the first novel written by this author, and though I liked it, I liked his Bud, Not Buddy, especially its narratorial voice, more.

Though most of this story is told in a lighthearted way as we learn about this family, the beginning was almost hard for me to read with its matter-of-fact depiction of the bullying that the narrator and his friend receive, as he wonders why bullies are the ones who can be so funny. The ending is exquisite as it depicts the narrator's mental state after a tr...more
This is probably my favorite book of all time. It had every element that I love in a book. It was hilarious with great descriptions, and at the same time it was powerful and thoughtful.
Hiram Alexander
We read this book in our eighth grade ELA class with Mrs. Castillo. At first I was kind of 'eh' about the book but as we read it, I found that I was wrong and that the book was really good! The way the humor ties into the book is so real as well as the racism and struggles of an African American family. This book is really great and I recommend it to everyone who likes to know a bit about history with a touch of fiction tied into it. I really like the book and it's just a really great read and I...more
Diamond Riddick
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
Book Review

Reading about the weird Watsons is no joke. Ok maybe it is. They stay funny and calm during their hard situations. Overall I give this book 4 stars. It is an attention grabber throughout the entire book.

The book is very relatable, and gives strong family values. First, is Daniel Watson the dad, he is the breadwinner, and a fun loving father. Second, is Wilona Watson the mom, She runs the household. Joetta is the youngest and only girl. She cares...more
I would highly recommend this book to students and adults alike. This book was above all, a very funny read. The summary of the novel does not prepare you for the fact that about 60% of the book takes place before the family even leaves to go on the road trip to Birmingham. While there is no shortage of funny situations, the majority of the book is just that—recounting the funny things that go on between siblings and parents within a family—situations that do not always fit clearly into the plot...more
Nick Hicks
The Watsons are a loving, funny family who live in Flint, Michigan in the early 1960's. When the oldest brother, Byron, continues down the path to trouble, his parents decide to take him to stay with his strict grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama. The entire family goes on the long trip, and while they are in Birmingham, a church is bombed, killing several children. Kenny, the middle child, is traumatized by what he sees, and takes a while to recover, with the help of his big brother, Byron.
I'm going to date myself here -- I was 3 when the The Watsons went to Birmingham in 1963. Our country was in a state of transition and chaos between the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. I learned quite a bit from this wonderful book about this time, and it was from a different perspective than my own circumstances. Blacks were subject to prejudice, President Kennedy was assassinated in November, and people were protesting the war. Hippies were finding peace and love on communes and at...more
I just can't recommend The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963. While the book can be pretty funny and the Weird Watsons are a tight-knit, pretty-darn-average family filled with support and love, it also meanders and at times even plods. I'm surprising myself to say this (because I rarely say this about any book), but I actually found it pretty boring.

The episodes, or vignettes, have the feel of the Jean Shepherd-inspired film, A Christmas Story (and some of the scenes seem borrowed from the film--t...more
Katie Mccue
This novel is about the Watson family who live in Flint, Michigan in 1963. The novel is told from the perspective of the main character Kenny. Kenny has a little sister Joey, and an older brother Byron who is a juvenile delinquent. Byron gets into a lot of trouble so his parents decide to send him to Birmingham to live with his Grandma for the summer of 1963. This book describes the events leading up to the family trip to Birmingham and also the situations that they face while they are in Birmin...more
Jennifer Moss
I had figured that I would use this book in my LA book club unit on the Civil Rights even before I read it. Unfortunately it wasn't what I thought it would be. The story is a much better book for character development than it is for historical fiction. The protagonist is well written and very believable. Students will relate to the antics of the family and neighborhood kids described by Curtis. They will also connect to the bullying issues. I was disappointed though in how long the reader has to...more
I have finally finished the book and I really liked it!!!
This is a book about a family that lives in Flint, Michigan. Their nickname is “The weird Watsons” because they act really weird. The mother is used to being in Alabama where it is warm. There are also two boys and a girl. The oldest boy, Byron is a troublemaker; he is always doing something to get in trouble, not only at home but also at school. He is a really funny character because he makes a really big fool out of himself. For example,...more
I am reading this book for my English class, and I have found the book to be amusing at points, but annoying at others. This book is supposed to be humorous, but most of the time just doesn't do its job with that. The book loves to use the phrase "You might as well tie him/her up to a tree and say ready aim fire" way too much besides these parts the book does have a pretty good story line, and gets interesting when they head to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 where there are a lot of racial problems...more
Mya Culiver
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 is a heart-throb story set back in time. The narrator is Kenny Watson who lives with his parents, older brother, and younger sister in Flint, Michigan. Kenny usually has a hard time in school, and with life in general. See, he has a cross-eye that makes him seem not intelligent. That, and the color of his dark skin, make people overlook his natural intelligence. Kenny's older brother Byron has a big role in this bullying to him. Byron's also known as the biggest...more
Teletubbie (Finn shaughnessy)
The Watsons Go to Birmingham --1963
By: Finn Shaughnessy

The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963, was written by Christopher Paul Curtis, who also wrote Bud Not Buddy and Elijah of Buxton, which were all Newberry medalist. Curtis, an African-American, grew up in Flint, Michigan around the same time The Watsons takes place. He wrote his first book at the age of 27. The genre of The Watsons Go to Birmingham is Fiction and the sub-genre is Historical Fiction. This book was mostly about family, adventure...more
Kyla Sheets
The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 was Christopher Paul Curtis’ first novel. He is an African American author that has earned Newbery Honors, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Golden Kite Award.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 is a historical-fiction novel that takes place in Flint, Michigan and later in Birmingham, Alabama. The narrator is a 10 year-old boy named Kenny. The characters are the reason I love this book, because whoever reads this book will find a person to relate to. The hu...more
Anthony Leonard
I thought the book was hilarious. The Watsons are a regular family, with the dad as the comedian. The story is told by Kenny Watson, the middle child in the Watson family. Byron Watson, the oldest child is a bad kid, he is always getting in trouble. He skips school, plays with matches, buys some cookies without his parents permission, and even changed his hair without his parents consent. His parents want him to send him to live with his Grandma Sands in Alabama. They drive down to Alabama, wher...more
Duffy Pratt
This is a slight, charming book that reads more like a memoir than a novel. It's about a black family from Flint, Michigan in 1963. The book focuses on the problems of the eldest boy, a budding juvenile delinquint, through the eyes of his nerdy younger brother. The astonishing thing for me was that the characters in this book were worlds away from my white, Long Island suburban upbringing, and yet, I felt like I had grown up with several of them. They seemed so perfectly normal. In this way, thi...more
Linda Lipko
When reading this I am again reminded of why I'm impressed with the depth of quality of so many Newbery award winning books.

With the following list of accomplishments, one cannot go wrong in reading this incredible gem:
1996 Newberry Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, ALA Top Ten Best Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Children’s Book, IRA Young Adult’s Choice, The Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book, A Booklist 25 Top Black History Picks for Youth, An NCSS-CBC Notable Child...more
This is a weirdly constructed book. 3/4 of the book is just a story about a 10 year old trying to put up with his "weird" family members, especially his egotistical 13 year old brother. Curtis is a master of hilarious anecdotes, I love how he shines a spotlight on the small, ridiculous moments of our lives. I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this.

Then, the very end of the book takes a whole new tack. As the title foreshadows, the family gets caught up in one of the most horrific te...more
Jul 02, 2010 Karen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: ls560
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie Jeanneret
Genre: historical fiction
Grades: 3-6

This is a book about a family that lives in Michigan; their mother is use to being in Alabama where it is warm. There are two boys and a girl. The oldest boy, Byron is a troublemaker, he is always doing something to get in trouble, not only at home but also at school. The little sister Joetta always stands up for Byron not wanting him to get in trouble. Kenneth the middle child also gets picked on Byron, at home and at school. Kenneth is the boy who not only...more
In a sometimes episodic depiction of a Northern black family in the 60s, Christopher Paul Curtis has managed to create probably one of the funniest and saddest young adult books of the 20th century.

First published in 1998 (and republished by Laurel Leaf in 2000), The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 is more than a recounting of a family trip, despite the title. The book starts out with the various dealings of its protagonist and precocious 10-year old narrator, Kenny Watson, with his older brother...more
It's difficult to rate a middle-grade book when you're reading it as an adult, and this book is no exception. Curtis definitely nails the perspective and voice of the young protagonist of the story, and much of the interactions that take place between the family members are both humorous and (surprisingly) moving. It's well written and moves at the sort of pace you'd expect a middle-grade to move at, so it hits the mark in most places.

However, the story falls short in a few important ways. First...more
Tonya Branch
Historical Fiction

This book is set in 1963 in Flint Michigan. Kenny, his older brother Byron, and his younger sister Joetta are the main characters along with their mom and dad. Kenny is the middle child who struggles with his own issues. His five year old sister Joetta seems to be the prize child, who does the right thing and his older brother is the reason the entire book happens. In Flint, Byron is “hanging with the wrong crowd” and getting himself into trouble. His parents decide to take him...more
Leketha Outley
I especially liked this book because it was about an African-American family who lives in Flint Michigan. Wilona and Daniel had three children, Byron, Kenny, and Joetta. Wilona was from Birmingham and hated being in Michigan, (where her husband is from). Of the three children, Byron was the rebellious one. In fact, he was the reason the Watson's went back to Birmingham. They were tired of his mischievous ways and decided he needed to go down South for the summer and possibly the following school...more
Patrick Allen
I can guarantee two things in my life: that I will likely be teaching overseas (I want to work for DOD schools), and that I will use this in my classroom if I am not teaching in the South. Much of the work for a teacher is the distribution of information, but this is not the only thing we must do. We must also destroy misperceptions caused by false or insufficient information. Some cases of this are necessary: racism, bigotry, misogyny, and the like. But what about misperceptions of regional dif...more
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Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan on May 10, 1953 to Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis, a chiropodist, and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator. The city of Flint plays an important role in many of Curtis's books. One such example is Bucking the Sarge, which is about a fifteen year old boy named Luther T. Ferrel, who is in a running battle with his slum-lord mother. Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Mic...more
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“There's one good thing about getting in trouble: It seems like you do it in steps. It seems like you don't just end up in trouble but that you kind of ease yourself into it. It also seems like the worse the trouble is that you get into, the more steps it takes to get there. Sort of like you're getting a bunch of little warnings on the way; sort of like if you really wanted to you could turn around.” 14 likes
“Having a little pee in your pants had to be better than being dinner for some redneck.” 9 likes
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