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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

4.4 (244 )
5 star
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4.6 (145 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-29-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Bryan McEntire 04-15-15 Member Since 2012
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    "๐Ÿ’—This book rocks.๐Ÿ’—"

    This book is better than any other book I have read,
    I would recommend this book for ages 9-13! Teachers should read this book to there kids. ๐Ÿ’–READ๐Ÿ’–

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 08-26-14
    Emily Portland, OR, United States 08-26-14 Member Since 2014

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan 12-14-12
    Jan 12-14-12 Member Since 2011

    Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.

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    "An unexpected delight, almost a five... if"

    This Newberry Honor winning book is so close to a perfect home-run: the narration is spot on, the slow moving plot entertains all the way through with a gradual layering of character building that made me feel like part of Kenny's, 60's family in Flint, Michigan. I loved my visit to a home that might have eaten that embarrasing food stamp food a time or two, where kids were kids and worried about getting their face "Whirlpooled" and had parents who loved them dearly and made life fun. However, I am very sensitive to swearing and did notice the scattered curse words though the book, which wasn't enough to really bother me... until I stopped to think it was written for children. True young Kenny, the narrator, doesn't swear but older brother and parents are recorded though his eyes. The book also includes the bombing of a black church, where the much adored younger sister is attending Sunday school and the reader experiences the family's terror from outside the church. So I guess what I am saying is... even though the beginning is very light-hearted, warm and so very well written... it is more appropriate for older readers. I was also just a little dissapointed in what felt like a maniputlated ending. I was so sucked into the story, that at the end when I had to suspend my disbelief it was jarring.

    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 Listener Since 2004

    carlskobe

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    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

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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 7 people found this review helpful
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    Rae Pierce Shepherd 08-21-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Great story"

    Great story during a time of southern racism. However the story seems more a story of childhood and shares common themes of all people. Relationships in families and kindness to those less fortunate are what we hope to give our children and next generation of children. Happy my child has this on his reading list this year! I am delighted to be able to share in conversations with him about this story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheree 08-03-15
    Sheree 08-03-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Best book ever!!"

    This book is amazing I thought it might be a little boring but not at all this has got to be one of my favorite books.I really loved the reader his voice was not to slow but not fast his voice was very calming.I disliked nothing about about this book. I gave this 5 stars because it so fun and interesting to read. I totally recommend you reading this book because I promise you will love!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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