Monday, January 16, 2012

The Blood of the Children

The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Laurel Leaf (2000)
224 pages
ISBN:  044022800X

Christopher Paul Richard's 1995 debut novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 garnered both a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor.  A funny, poignant portrait of the Watson family of Flint, Michigan, the novel opens with the Weird Watsons, as they are known in the neighborhood, huddled under a blanket on the couch to keep warm.  Momma, who is from the warm state of Alabama, glares at Dad, as he is the one who moved her to Michigan, a state she loathingly calls "a giant icebox."

The story's narrator, ten-year-old Kenny, does extremely well in school and tries to please his parents, but his older brother Byron, "officially a teenage juvenile delinquent," is a rebellious boy who taunts his younger brother.  Little sister Joey tries desperately, if unsuccessfully, to keep the peace.  After a series of misdeeds, his "latest fantastic adventures" as Byron calls them, Momma and Dad decide Byron must spend the summer with his strict grandmother down in Birmingham.  The whole family piles into the Brown Bomber, a 1948 dull brown Plymouth, and drives south to Momma's hometown heading straight for one of the darkest, most shocking days in America's history.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 mixes the fictional story of the Watsons with real life events, making for a gripping introduction to one of the most devastating events of the Civil Rights Movement.  Of this tragic event, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that sometimes life is "as hard as crucible steel."

Incidentally, Christopher Paul Richard's second book, Bud, Not Buddy, received both the 2000 Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award.  If you enjoy Christopher Paul Richard's books, you might also like The Rock and the River and One Crazy Summer.

To order this book from Amazon, click on The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963.


  1. What a great book! I've found that kids really love it, too - Something that can't always be said of historical fiction!

  2. Agreed! My son read both The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy when he was in 5th grade and loved them.

  3. My sister keeps telling me to read The Watsons Go to Birmingham, but somehow it keeps slipping to the bottom of my pile. I'll definitely move it back to the top. Thank you for your review.

  4. I love this story and recommend it often - always glad to see other fans of it too. I'll second the praise for Bud Not Buddy as well. -T