The Watson’s Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

book cover image from

Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963.  210 p.  Delacorte Press.  1995.  ISBN 978-0-385-32175-4.

Have you ever read a book that you just know is going to stay with you for a long, long time?

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 is one of those books.  The author manages to perfectly balance the often funny happenings of the Watson family, lovingly referred to by the 10-year-old middle child narrator, Kenny, as the “Weird Watsons”, with the very seriousness time period in which this book takes place.

It’s 1963 in Michigan.  The Watsons are planning  a summer trip to Birmingham, Alabama to visit the kids Grandmother.  The parents are actually hoping Grandma can whip some sense into their oldest son Byron, who is getting into trouble at school, and at home.

Much of the book takes place before the Watsons even arrive in Birmingham.  The pre-Birmingham part of the story is the funny part.  Once they get to Birmingham though, the story takes a realistic serious turn.  African American’s are treated much differently in Alabama than they are in Michigan, and Kenny witnesses some very somber events.

Although the book has a serious ending, it is inspirational as well, and will likely stay with the reader for years to come.

Genre: historical fiction, humor

Tags: Civil Rights, culture, Birmingham, African American, family, humor, historical fiction

Note: Mrs. Renton created a list of excellent electronic Civil Rights resources.  They are located in the Civil Rights section of the Harvest Park Welcome Page.

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 5.0

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963

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