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The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  62,413 ratings  ·  5,000 reviews
The Newbery Honor-winning American classic, The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 , celebrates 20 years with this anniversary edition featuring a special letter from Christopher Paul Curtis and an introduction by noted educator Dr. Pauletta Bracy.
Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 12th 2000 by Laurel Leaf (first published January 1st 1995)
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Ben My opinion differs. It is an absolutely fantastic book bringing comedy and historical fiction together. Curtis did a wonderful job of writing the book…moreMy opinion differs. It is an absolutely fantastic book bringing comedy and historical fiction together. Curtis did a wonderful job of writing the book.(less)
Julian The reason he has rectangular/square toes is because he is a fictional character and not real. The author just wanted to add something interesting in …moreThe reason he has rectangular/square toes is because he is a fictional character and not real. The author just wanted to add something interesting in the book so he made up the wool pooh, and how it was drowning Kenny and Byron fought it away, was just for a hook, because nothing that interesting happened in the book, and they didn't want to go to happy-go-lucky Birmingham, to a church being bombed. He just decided to go with rectangle toes as some extra detail. This is fictional because if the wool pooh has gills, he can't have been part of the church bombing. If he was part of it, like Kenny said, he would have been arrested and died in prison(less)

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Christopher Paul Curtis wanted to be a writer but had yet to get a break. Working on a mechanic line in a Flint, Michigan automotive factory, he penned three historical fiction novels for middle grade children. In 1995 his first novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 was published, and lead Curtis out of the automobile industry and into the forefront of children's literature. The winner of both the Newberry and Coretta Scott King as well as other awards, The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 is a ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Gretchen Rubin
I've been meaning to read this esteemed novel for years. Thought-provoking. It had a hint of the supernatural, which I loved. ...more
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't read this fast enough. It has been my second read from Christopher Paul Curtis and I ate up the story like a kid eating a sucker behind the couch his mom told him not to eat in the first place.

It was funny and serious with racial issues thrown out to the reader.

Told in the narrative of Kenneth Watson, it follows his family and life in school focusing on his bully brother Byron (By). Each chapter is hilariously recounted as only a kid in third grade can remember the events or underst
Kenny Watson is a ten-year-old resident of Flint, Michigan. The year is 1963, and Kenny, having grown up in an overwhelmingly black neighborhood and never visited his mother’s family down South, has not personally experienced much racism. He’s seen violence against people of color on TV, but those scenes might as well be happening on another planet to him. He just worries about playing with his plastic dinosaurs and evading his brother Byron, who’s thirteen and an “official juvenile delinquent.” ...more
Mariah Roze
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this in like middle school and LOVED IT!

That's like all I remember hahahaha
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
Adam Wilson
May 29, 2011 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
Kael Markham
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is a historical fiction book. In this novel, Kenny and his family live in Flint, Michigan. His brother, Byron, has not stopped acting up and Kenny's Momma and Dad do not know what to do with him. They then come to an agreement to go down to Birmingham, Alabama where they were going to stay with Kenny's grandma for awhile, then leave Byron there for the summer. On their trip, in the car they would listen to their ultra-glide and they se ...more
Connor Bray
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 A historical fiction By Christopher Paul Curtis. In this novel 'The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963', tells about a family that consist of Kenny, Byron, Momma, Dad And joey the girl. This story was about a troubled kid named Byron who finally goes overboard and is sent to live with his strict grandmother named Grandma Sands in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights movement when segregation was still a big thing deep down south. Through their ups and downs so ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 is a great historical fiction book to read the author of this book is Christopher Paul Curtis. The book shows you what it was like to be in an African American family in 1963 of the southern and northern parts of America. I for one loved The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 I thought it was really funny at some parts but really sad at other parts. I don't have a brother and I got to see what it was like having an older brother. My favorite part of the book was d ...more
Rashika (is tired)
A list of thoughts upon reading this novel.

1. I love children's lit and middle grade.
2. I love my teacher for making us read this book.
3. I love this fucking book.
4. Kids are mean.
6. The Watsons are the best.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

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 a
Apr 29, 2019 added it
whole book summarized
family lives in Flint Michigan
Big brother becomes Mexican
Family goes on road trip
Main character almost drowns
bomb goes off in church
main character hides behind couch for a few days
And that is why I'm not rating this
Aj Sterkel
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
Likes: I guess this is technically a reread because a teacher read this novel to our class when I was in elementary school. I picked the book up again because I didn’t remember much about it. I knew I liked it. I vaguely remembered the rebellious older brother, the ugly car, and the scary thing that happens at the end. The rest of the story was very foggy in my mind.

Now that I’ve reread it, I can confirm that the writing and character development are excellent! Seriously, this is the most believ
Samantha Houser
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book called The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is a historical fiction book. The setting of this novel is placed in the year of 1963. The characters are Kenny, who's point of view it is told by, Byron, his older brother, Joey, his younger brother, and his parents, Daniel and Wilona. They live in Flint, Michigan but they go to Birmingham for a while. The main plot is that Byron is such a bad behaving kid, a juvenile delinquent that his parents decide to take him to B ...more
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Reread. This book, a consistent favorite in my classroom over the years, is wildly popular with my current students. We meet the Weird Watsons and through them, experience the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on individual children and their families.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham also launched Christopher Paul Curtis' writing career, an immeasurable gift to all of us who read his work.
Maddox Demers
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: t1
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I loved this compassionate, heartfelt story, deeply funny at times, told from the point-of-view of ten-year-old Kenny, who is bullied by his older brother, Byron. We see the humor in Kenny's life and close-knit family, and the struggles a young boy faces when he loves but doesn't want to emulate an older brother who is pushing boundaries on the cusp of adulthood. We also see him cope with trauma when the Watsons visit Kenny's grandmother in Birmingham at the time of the Sixteenth Street Baptist ...more
Brown Girl Reading
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Middle-Grade with African-american characters
This was an interesting story about the Watson family. It's filled with realistic anecdotes of an African-American family living in Flint, Michigan. The focus of the story is between 2 brothers and their arduous relationship. All this takes place in 1963 with the back drop of the civil Rights movement. It's a wonderful story to get kids to talk about family life, siblings, and of course to talk about racism and the Civil rights Movement. ...more
Maya B
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I recommend to parents to read along with their children. I think its a book that touches on issues that will get families talking.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
3-3.5 stars

An animated, spontaneous, and generally light-hearted view of family life from the perspective of 10-year-old Kenny up until the family's eye-opening road trip to Birmingham, Alabama where there is ultimately a shift in focus to a more somber event in U.S. history. Although the plot summary notes the 1963 time period as one of the darkest times, race is not directly touched upon until after the halfway point where it is only addressed intermittently until the aforementioned event at t
The title is somewhat misleading but the book contains many scenarios that children and parents may find relatable. With laugh out loud scenes interjected from cover to cover the Watson’s trip to Birmingham introduces an unforgettably tragic moment into an otherwise light hearted read.

*Contains Spoilers*

The Watsons Go to Birmingham is told from the point of view of 10 year old Kenny. He’s a smart kid who is mindful of doing the right thing. Between looking after his younger sister, avoiding bull
Gabe Thompson
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I gave the historical fiction novel The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis a four star rating.
This novel takes place in Flint, Michigan-1963 and also switches back between Birmingham, Alabama. My favorite character in the novel is definitely Kenny, who is the narrator. I like that the story is told by a ten year old boy because it comes from such a different view point. Kenny's brother Byron is a 13 year old juvenile delinquent in this novel and he begins the being very imm
Hiram Alexander Orozco
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
A great read set at the time when the Civil Rights Movement was brought to national attention. It is the story of an African American family living in Michigan - the father works in an auto factory and is a member of the UAW union. Their lives illustrate differences for African Americans living in the north and the south.
This novel for middle readers (probably 4th -6th grade) tells the story of the Watson family who live in Flint Michigan. Mrs. Watson is from Alabama and she just cannot get used
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
The only thing that could make this most-favorite book better is having LaVar Burton read the audio.
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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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