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The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis Review

Title: The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis

First published January 1, 1995

224 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780440228004 (ISBN10: 044022800X)

Rating: 3.99


The beloved American classic, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963, is back with a special anniversary edition that includes a heartfelt letter from Christopher Paul Curtis and an introduction by renowned educator Dr. Pauletta Bracy. Join ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the quirky Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan, on a hilarious adventure filled with love, laughter, and life lessons.

Meet Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and thirteen-year-old brother Byron, who has a reputation as a “juvenile delinquent.” When Dad brings home the incredible Ultra-Glide and suggests a trip to Grandma’s in Birmingham, Alabama, the Watsons embark on a journey unlike any other. As they travel South to one of the most challenging moments in American history, prepare to be moved, inspired, and entertained by this timeless tale.

About the Author

Meet Christopher Curtis, a celebrated author born in Flint, Michigan on May 10, 1953. Christopher’s parents were Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator.

Flint, Michigan holds a special place in Christopher’s heart, and he often incorporates this city into his books. For example, Bucking the Sarge, a book about a boy named Luther T.

Ferrel, showcases Flint and the struggles of a young boy fighting against his slum-lord mother. Christopher attended the University of Michigan-Flint.

Christopher is a proud father of two children, Steven and Cydney. Steven is an ensign in the United States Navy, while Cydney is a talented pianist and college student.

In 2011, Christopher welcomed his third child into the world. Christopher drew inspiration for characters in his book, Bud, Not Buddy, from his two grandfathers: Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a pitcher in the Negro league baseball, and Herman E.

Curtis, Sr., who was part of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression in the 1930s.

In January 2009, Christopher made the move to Detroit, Michigan.

Editoral Review

Christopher Paul Curtis The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is a poignant middle-grade historical fiction novel published in 1995. Set in Flint, Michigan, it follows the Watson family, an African American family of five, as they navigate the tumultuous events of the Civil Rights Movement.

The novel explores several themes such as identity, family, social justice, and discrimination, making it a powerful read for young readers seeking an honest portrayal of the experiences of Black families during the 1960s. The writing style of the novel is engaging and captivating, with a mix of humor and heart-wrenching scenes that keep the reader engaged.

The novel is centered around the Watson family: oldest brother Byron who is a typical troublemaker, younger brother Kenny who is more introverted, and the youngest sister, Joetta. The family decides to travel to their grandparents Alabama home in Birmingham in 1963, a decision that will change their lives forever.

Along the way, they experience various racial incidents, including coming face-to-face with the devastating 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The setting of the novel is expertly developed, seamlessly blending historical context with Curtis imagination to create an experience that feels both vivid and authentic.

Through the eyes of Kenny, we see the realities of segregation, the bravery of those who fought against oppression, and the deep impact of trauma on families and communities. One of the strongest elements of The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is the character development.

Each member of the Watson family is superbly written, with unique personalities and struggles that are relatable, endearing, and emotional. The family dynamic is also refreshingly genuine and complex, highlighting the love, humor, and challenges that exist within families, regardless of their background.

Moreover, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 holds cultural and historical significance, depicting an important moment in the Civil Rights Movement that continues to impact the world today. The novel provides a lens into the Black American experience and shows how far society has come and how much more progress is needed towards equity and justice.

However, the novel does have some limitations. Whilst the portrayal of the Watson family is realistic, some of the supporting characters feel slightly stereotypical or one-dimensional.

Curtis could have also delved deeper into some of the themes, providing more nuance and exploration of these issues.

Overall, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is an excellently written, thought-provoking, and emotionally resonant historical fiction novel.

It is a must-read for young readers and adults seeking to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement in a way that is both accessible and impactful. The novel receives a score of 9/10, with points for its writing style, character development, and historical significance, and deductions for its limited supporting characters and underdeveloped themes.