Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to
2. Genre and Awards:
Historical Fiction. Adolescent Literature.
Newbery Honor Book. Coretta Scott King Honor Book. An
The Weird Watsons hail from
Kenny Watson is the main character and narrator of the novel. Kenny sort of has it rough, as he’s the younger brother, the awkward kid, the black kid, and has a lazy eye – all issues that plague him throughout the story. Byron is his older brother and the reason the family is headed to
The plot of The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 is centered around the trip, but a good deal of the novel is spent familiarizing readers with the Watsons’ family dynamics and setting them up as a strong family unit. This unit will prove critical as the family leaves their home and travels to a place that is very different and much more dangerous. The action culminates in an event of violent racial terrorism at the end of the novel, out of which Kenny can’t tell if his family made it alive.
6. Needs of Adolescents:
This book addresses racial tensions and the effects those have on young people in a very personal way, which is something many students deal with everyday. It also really highlights the familial connections, especially sibling relationships, which are also an area in which a lot of kids need a place to connect, vent, or just process their own experiences.
7. Possible Classroom Uses:
I would love to do a unit in my classroom on the sixties. There are so many topical directions to go from there (Civil Rights, environmentalism, space exploration, Communism/politics, pop culture – to name a few) and I can see working any number of types of writing into it. It would be really great if one component of that could be Literature Circles and this book could be one option. I could see this as a read-aloud book in a middle school and definitely a recommendation for individual reading.
Middle school or Junior high.
9. Personal Reactions:
I loved this story. It was truly heartbreaking to see the adjustments that Kenny saw his family go through as they moved into an area that was so significantly less accepting than what they were used to. I can see so many connections between this book and The Giver as well as Sold, because of the way readers get to really connect with a narrator who is sorting out his or her world – much like so many voices in adolescent literature – but these especially seem to be plagued by an overwhelming sense of lost-ness in a way that really gets me!