Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

This book is a combo of sorts. The first half of the book is a series of vignettes about Kenny, a 10-year-old in Flint, MI in 1963, and his older brother Byron, little sister Joey, and his parents and classmates. Byron is turning into a bit of a hooligan, but at the same time he is protective of Kenny who's considered a nerd. And then halfway through, the book makes a bit of a turn. In order to get Byron away from bad influences his parents decide to send him to Birmingham, to his grandmother's for the summer, and maybe the whole year if he doesn't shape up. So the whole family drives across the country, and they decide to spend some time in Birmingham. While there, Kenny gets in an accident, and also the events of the Civil Rights movement hit close to home.

The book really captures what life is like for a 10-year-old. The era didn't scream out at me, which is good as it won't feel too foreign to kids today. It's also pretty funny. I laughed out loud when Kenny said the problem with playing dinosaurs is fighting over who gets to be the American dinosaurs and who has to be the Nazi dinosaurs. Mr. Curtis is great at seeing through the eyes of a child, including scary things, and showing them how a kid would cope with them. All the characters were well-drawn and the story is smoothly told. It's a book that will keep you thinking for a long time.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.
I bought this book at a used bookstore.

1 comment:

Julie P. said...

I can see how this book might be a good way to introduce children to some difficult topics -- i.e. the Civil Rights movement. My kids can't believe how poorly African Americans were treated...