The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis
Book review by Heather Frehner

Main Characters

Kenneth "Kenny" Watson -  a 10 year old boy

Byron Watson - Kenny's older brother

Joetta - Kenny's younger sister

Momma & Dad - Kenny's parents


This story takes place in 1963. The Watsons live in Flint, Michigan and travel south to Birmingham, Alabama.


         The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 is a story told by Kenneth Watson, a 10 year old boy. While this 224-page novel is arranged in chronological order over the course of about one year, each chapter contains a little anecdote about the Watson family. Because the Watsons live in Flint, Michigan, Kenny and his siblings (a younger sister, Joetta, and an older brother, Byron) are unaware of the racial tension in the South. When Byron continues to get into trouble, his parents decide that he will spend the summer with his grandmother in Birmingham, the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement. Curtis does a little foreshadowing throughout, but it isn't until the second to last chapter of The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 that the racism and violence are introduced.


The song "Freedom Train" by James Carr was written in 1969. I think this would be a really good song to play at the end of The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 because it talks about everybody working together for equal rights for everyone.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham was made into a Hallmark movie in 2013. I think this would be a good movie to watch to compare to the book and see how closely it stuck to Christopher Paul Curtis's work.

The poem "Ballad of Birmingham" by Dudley Randall is about a horrific event that also happened in The Watsons Go to Birmingham. This is really good to read after you have finished the book.

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