The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
What You Need to Know:|
• This is a powerful and important book, to be read by young adults and adults alike.
• It is a work of historical fiction, based on the tragic and violent summer in Birmingham in 1963.
• While this is about the Birmingham bombing, it is much, much more, too. It is the story of one family, their trials and
tribulations first, and then how they were affected by the bombing.
• This story gives families a wealth of discussion opportunities on so many different topics including: civil rights,
bullying, behavior, emotions, friendship and so much more.
The story starts in Flint Michigan, where we are introduced to the "weird Watsons". Kenny, our fourth grade narrator, explains the ins and outs of being a Watson. From being overdressed by their southern Mama to being bullied because of his lazy eye, Kenny's persepecitve is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. The main focus for the family is big brother Byron, who is getting into trouble left and right. Whether it is flunking school, playing with matches or charging extra food on the grocery account, Byron is headed for big trouble. Mr. and Mrs. Watson decide they need to follow through on their promise, and remove Byron from the temptation of Flint, Michigan, and get him down south to the stern but loving arms of his maternal grandma. The family plans the trip carefully and precisely in their 15 year old car, because as soon as they cross into the south, life as the know it up north will not be so easy. Unfortunately, worrying about what bathroom they can use is a small one compared to what was waiting for them in Birmingham in 1963. The Watsons head right into the burning of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church that claims the lives of four young girls and almost kills the littlest Watson, Joetta.
The story is about civil rights and discrimination, but at it's heart, it is about one family and their enduring and strong love for one another. Byron transforms before the readers eyes. There is no all-purpose happy ending here, but the family's love proves stronger than even the most tragic events, and the reader is left feeling hopeful. This is a terrific book for civil rights units and race awareness, or just for a compelling read. I highly recommend it for book clubs. My fifth grader's class read it and invited parents to read it as well, and join the class for discussion (thanks Mrs. E!). What a facsinating and thought-provoking conversation we had.
Christopher Paul Cutris
1995, 210 pages
Discrimination, Life Challenges, Good Book Club Selection, Civil Rights,
This recommendation was written by: