Battle of the Books: The Waltons Go To Birmingham

Interesting plot line and relatable story 

By Lydia Garrett-Metz

Editor’s note:  Butterfield Library’s 2012 Battle of the Books team members will be reviewing each of their books.  Click here to read’s feature story on the Battle of the Books program, and here to read last month’s review.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, a multiple award-winning book, is based upon an African-American family in the 1960’s. Young Kenny Watson narrates the whole event in his humorous voice.  An interesting plot line and an overall relatable story was what made this book stand out in my mind.

Kenny, his mother, father, Bryon, your typical teenage brother, and younger sister Joetta decide to travel from their house in Michigan to Grandma’s house in Alabama. But until they get there they don’t know that they are heading into one of darkest moments in history and that Joetta will be involved in the bombing of a church!

I liked the book, giving it 4/5 stars. The reason being, you needed a lot of background knowledge to fully understand all the concepts of tension around blacks at that time. I knew some about what had been going on, but apparently not enough because there were a few concepts I didn’t understand. I didn’t like how Joetta wasn’t a very important part in the book until the church bombing in the end.

The book was an overall great read though.  I laughed my way through the book, as did many members of Battle of the Books. It was easy to relate to the brother-to-brother love/hate relationship that the author described so well.  You can really tell that the author put thought into how a family of five would act in every possible scenario. My favorite part was when, after deciding to go to Alabama, Kenny’s father went out and bought an “Ultra-Glide” stereo for the family car and they all took turns putting on songs. Kenny continuously put on Yakety Yak, to his family’s dismay.  I think that this book is appropriate for ages 9+.  Like any teenager, Bryon did those mischievous things that could put bad ideas of a “good role model” out there and used multiple swears.

 I suggest reading this book for anyone looking for laughs and an all around good story. It’s a good child-parent read, but I read it on my own and still loved it.   A couple awards The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 has won are: A New York Times Best Book, A 1996 Newberry Honor Book, An ALA best book for young adults, a Golden Kite award for fiction and many, MANY more.
Lydia Garrett-Metz is in the fifth grade at Haldane.

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