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The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 | [Christopher Paul Curtis]

The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, Kenny, and Byron, Kenny's older brother, who at thirteen is an "official juvenile delinquent." When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. Heading south, they're going to Birmingham, Alabama, and toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.
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Publisher's Summary

Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, Kenny, and Byron, Kenny's older brother, who at thirteen is an "official juvenile delinquent."

When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. Heading south, they're going to Birmingham, Alabama, and toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.

By turns comic, tragic and touching, this remarkable Newbery Honor work, delightfully performed by LeVar Burton in this unabridged production, will delight listeners young and old as they meet Christopher Paul Curtis, a storyteller of bold ambition and a true and original voice, and his inimitable Watsons.

©1995 Christopher Paul Curtis; (P)1996 Random House, Inc., Listening Library, An Imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group

What the Critics Say

"Marvelous...both comic and deeply moving." (The New York Times Book Review)
"An exceptional first novel." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (171 )
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4.4 (83 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Melissa United States 11-29-11
    Melissa United States 11-29-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Required reading but not too bad"

    I was required to "read" this book for a college level children's literature class. Usually when I'm assigned required reading I expect to be bored to tears because the books professors tend to pick are not often the types of books I prefer. However, this book wasn't bad. Along with "Alas Babylon" (required for another class) this was one of the better books I've been assigned. I was glad to see LaVar Burton as the narrator. I love his voice. It brought back so many memories of watching Reading Rainbow as a kid. His voice always sounds so relaxing and gentle. I feel like I'm curled up in front of a cozy fire no matter where I am when I hear him read. LaVar also has excellent diction and he utilizes pauses very well. He might not do voices like other narrators, but for this book it was just fine with me.

    The story was also good. I wasn't able to relate to it completely or clearly judge it's realness because I'm not old enough to have experienced these events & others like it, I live in the North, and I'm white. That being said, I feel like it did give me a decent glimpse into what this family felt and experienced in both Flint, Michigan & Birmingham, Alabama at that time in history. It was interesting to see how children might have dealt with experiencing major civil rights events, how they worked out those emotions & logic in their own mind, and how they related it to what was happening in their own lives at the time.

    All in all I think it's a good story & worth the listen, for kids & even an adult like me. :)

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Valrico, FL, United States 06-06-06
    Christopher Valrico, FL, United States 06-06-06

    Tell us about yourself!I am a father of 3 children, and am a husband of 15 years to a wonderful wife, and friend. I'm a Deacon, and love God

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Watsons Go to Birmingham"

    I just wanted to say that this is a very good book, and very well written. I think that the author captured what was happening in the South at that time very well from a black person stand point. I was into the book and the story. Great Great book.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Elgin, IL, USA 06-01-08
    Mary Elgin, IL, USA 06-01-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A story you'll want to share"

    1. Read and enjoy

    2. Give this book to:
    -smart or artistic kids who sometimes don't think they fit in; they will relate to the narrator.
    -kids who love being entertained by TV but not by books; they will look forward to each new chapter as if it were an episode of their favorite show.
    -children you wish knew a little more about America's recent history; they will learn a little about the Civil Rights Movement without feeling like they're being "taught."
    -children who are dealing with a recent trauma or death; this is full of humor and tragedy and offers advice about moving on.
    -adults who want something that's a pleasure to listen to, but will still get them thinking; this is precisely the book they're looking for.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Inez Detroit, MI, USA 04-04-07
    Inez Detroit, MI, USA 04-04-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A book for all Seasons"

    Excellent book. A great depiction of life in the 1960's. I called my grandchildren - who range in age from 7 to 13, and live in Chicago - to tell them about the wonderful book that I found and that we could cuddle in bed with a bowl of popcorn and listen to. I am going to visit for Easter and can't wait for the joy of listening again with them. Christopher Paul Curtis is an excellent storyteller and with LeVar Burton narrating, it was sheer joy. Coincidentally, when I told my eleven year old granddaughter about the book, she became very excited. It seems that her teacher had just that day recommended it to her to read.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Veronica Ogden, Utah 02-28-07
    Veronica Ogden, Utah 02-28-07 Member Since 2004

    carlskobe

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    "Carlskobe"

    I had a hard week at work and I just wanted to listen to something down to earth. This wonderful book and it characters took me back to a time when life was much simpler. Even with the racial tention life in itself was so uncomplicated. It was a time when family met something.It was nice to be with the Watson and be a kid again.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deanna Gilroy, CA, USA 07-23-06
    Deanna Gilroy, CA, USA 07-23-06
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    "Hilarious and moving"

    I love this book and have listened to it several times. Set during the times of the Civil Rights movement it is a story of the hilarious happenings of the "weird Watsons" and their trip to Burmingham from Michigan. Quite the culture shock for them but this is one of the best family stories our family has heard in long time!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 08-26-14
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 08-26-14 Member Since 2012

    Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.

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    "Funny and Poignant Look at Civil Rights Era"

    I purchased this audio for my 12 year old and me to listen to, thinking it would be an introduction to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed 4 little girls (note I had always heard them referred to as the "four little girls" but I was interested to learn that they were 14).

    It starts out pretty far away from that, as a mostly humorous look at an African American family in Flint, MI. My son liked how the book progressed as a series of vignettes, which made it easier to pause the book and resume listening later. There were many funny moments which I wasn't expecting.

    Once we got to the end, "our" family has lived through the bombing and is dealing with the aftermath. Over the following days, my son continued to question why people would have killed children to prevent having to go to school and restaurants with people of a different race. It is a very hard situation to understand, and I thought this book did a great job of making it present for him, as opposed to an event in history that's impossible to understand or experience.

    LeVar Burton is a wonderful narrator. He has a thoroughly pleasing voice that would be suitable to any number of books -- he dealt with the comedic and tragic aspects equally well. I plan to look for other books he's recorded.

    The book ends with a brief overview of the history, which my son enjoyed almost as much as the fictional story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Acedo 06-03-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great Reading"
    What did you love best about The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963?

    I loved the animated voice of the reader and the music that accompanied the reading


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Byron was my favorite character because of his good heart and ability to constantly get into trouble.


    What about LeVar Burton’s performance did you like?

    He read the book wonderfully; it was almost acted out.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The Birmingham Church Bombing from a child's point of view


    Any additional comments?

    I would have appreciated chapter stops.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taree SEBASTIAN, FL, United States 11-27-13
    Taree SEBASTIAN, FL, United States 11-27-13 Member Since 2012
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    "GREAT family read!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely, it is a great book with a lot of "real" history to it. Wonderful book for young readers to understand civil rights issues and the beginnings of the civil rights movment in the early 60's.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Difficult to chose one part there were so many great parts to this book. Some very funny others tragic.


    What about LeVar Burton’s performance did you like?

    LeVar Burton always delivers a spectacular performance whether on screen or audio! His voice is pleasant to listen to and he has good annunciation using inflection when reading the characters.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    This is a Hallmark channel movie - it was excellent but like most book to movie ... the book is much better, many more deatials in the book.


    Any additional comments?

    I read this book with my 13 year old son he had to read it for a school project. He would follow along in his print book with the audio. It was an awesome book - we loved it. Great historical references that led to family conversations on race, segregation, prejudice and hate crimes. We were fortunate that several weeks after he finished the book the movie debut on tv and we watched it together and discussed the differences from the book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    stephen new york, NY, United States 08-03-13
    stephen new york, NY, United States 08-03-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Huckleberry Finn Lite (very lite)"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Perhaps more suitable for young people who haven't read many books.


    What could Christopher Paul Curtis have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    A stronger plot.


    What does LeVar Burton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    LeVar Burton's reading is excellent and is the main reason why I listened to the end.


    Any additional comments?

    The book had far too much descriptions of family life at the Watson home and too little story. The book ultimately made an important event in American history into a tedious tale.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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