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The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  46,217 Ratings  ·  3,559 Reviews
A wonderful middle-grade novel narrated by Kenny, 9, about his middle-class black family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny's 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, they head 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 blown up.
Audio, 0 pages
Published July 5th 2000 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published January 1st 1995)
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Kaleb This book made me feel sad. the meaning was super good. But I feel like the theme was really good. I don't know why the movie was so much different…moreThis book made me feel sad. the meaning was super good. But I feel like the theme was really good. I don't know why the movie was so much different then the book. They missed out on the so many details in the movie.(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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Community Reviews

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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
Jan 20, 2009 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephanie Brown
Jul 13, 2007 Stephanie Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2016 Mariah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in like middle school and LOVED IT!

That's like all I remember hahahaha
Kael Markham
Nov 18, 2014 Kael Markham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Connor Bray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam Wilson
May 29, 2011 Adam Wilson marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2014 Blake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Samantha Houser
Nov 08, 2014 Samantha Houser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2017 Eileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Gabe Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Maya B
Sep 25, 2016 Maya B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, ya
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.
Nov 29, 2008 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
(Review Not on Blog)

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was really intrigued by it. A child's perspective of 1963, Birmingham (USA) seemed pretty heavy a subject. This novel in a sense is for middle school children and the adult issues are balanced with children's humour and perspective. I found Kenny, quite endearing, and his family so interesting and fun. This is a well-written novel that I think would be perfect for children as well as adults. I took off a star for
Jen Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ
This was a well written story, one that was mostly filled with anecdotes about the life of an African American family during the 1960s. The anecdotes worked well to weave a cohesive story, one that touches on the struggles in the Civil Rights Movement, especially in the South.
I enjoyed the narrative written from the perspective of a fourth grade student, Kenny. His interaction with friends and family set the stage for the cultural diversity and challenges faced by African Americans. Kenny's fam
Kenny Watson lives with his family in Flint Michigan. His older brother, Byron, has been getting into trouble and running with the wrong crowd. Meanwhile, Kenny is constantly being bullied at school, in his neighborhood and most times at the hand of Byron. Byron’s misbehavior has become too much for the family to bear, so they head down south with the intentions of leaving Byron behind to be taken care of by his grandmother, but the south has its own troubles. It is a trip that will change the W ...more
Jul 12, 2007 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diamond Riddick
Apr 24, 2013 Diamond Riddick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2014 Trinity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a historical fiction, The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis. I rated the book five stars. In the story The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, out main characters are a boy named Kenny and his older brother Byron. They live in Flint, Michigan and Byron is a juvenile delinquent. He sets fires and does things he is not suppose to do. Momma threatens to send him to Alabama for the school year if he does not clean up his act. But Byron still does things he is not suppose to, ...more
Jul 12, 2016 Tressa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2016
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cassidy Mcmaster
Nov 08, 2014 Cassidy Mcmaster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 is a historical fiction by Christopher Paul Curtis. Kenneth Watson is a 10-year-old boy in Flint, Michigan. The Watsons Go to Birmingham tells the story of Kenny and his family (Momma, Dad, Joetta, and Byron). Byron is officially a juvenile delinquent but Momma and Dad want to change that. They decide that they're going to Birmingham, Alabama for a week to visit Momma's mom, Grandma Sands. But when they leave Birmingham,they're going to leave Byron there for th ...more
Hiram Alexander
Jan 22, 2009 Hiram Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nick Hicks
Dec 06, 2012 Nick Hicks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Emily Lang
Nov 17, 2014 Emily Lang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a historical fiction novel called The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. This story takes place throughout the Wastons journey from Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama. The main characters are the brothers, Kenny and Byron. The story is about how Byron keeps getting into trouble in Flint so Momma and Dad decide to have a road trip down to Birmingham, Alabama, the most segregated city in the country. This is an amazing book! My favorite part was when the c ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Didi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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
More about Christopher Paul Curtis...

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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.” 18 likes
“Wow. Who would want a fish for a pet when they could have a turtle?!” 11 likes
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