Monday, January 18, 2010

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963

Christopher Paul Curtis
Yearling, 1995

Kenny's older brother Byron is big trouble. Hanging out with his delinquent friends, playing with matches in the bathroom, stealing cookies from the grocery store---Byron is not the kind of older brother a kid can look up to. When Byron dyes his hair his parents decide that's the last straw. His sentence - leave Flint, Michigan and spend a summer with Grandma Sands in Birmingham, Alabama. The whole family piles into the "Brown Bomber" and takes off on a marathon drive from the icy north down to to the deep south to drop of Byron at Grandma's Detention Center.

Sure, there's been some trouble down there in Alabama, something about segregation, but that won't stop the Watsons from taking a trip to the old hometown.

Byron's antics and Kenny's hilarious commentary create a heartwarming picture of a family just trying to do their best to get along in hard times. Quirky and human in a deeply believable way, by the end of the book the Watsons feel like part of your family.

Which makes the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church Bombing so much more than a historical event. It becomes a heart-stopping tragedy.

A book that reminds us how precious life is, how ugly hate is, The Watsons Go to Birmingham is a great piece of historical fiction. Mild language and vulgarity, some bullying situations. For readers 13 and up.

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