My kid recommended this book to me.
They read it in fifth grade and it really touched him. I listened to the audiobook version and he even hovered around me while it was on so he could hear it again.
Most of this book is setting up the “weird Watsons,” as they call themselves, in 1963. The Watsons are a typical American family with three kids. They tattle, get into trouble, do homework, pick fights with each other, go to church, squabble, and eat dinner.
Also, they happen to be African Americans during the school integration program and strong racist backlash.
The Watson children bring a human element to history. We see their reactions to the church bombing that killed four young girls.
“‘Why would they do that, Byron?’ I was sounding real bad. My throat was jumping around in my neck and making a bunch of weird noises. ‘Why would they hurt some little kids like that?'”
Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons Go to Birmingham
The Watsons Go to Birmingham is ultimately not a book about racism, though. It’s a book about a family.
And it’s the perfect way to get through to kids. They get a story with characters they can relate to. But the horrors of the church bombing in Birmingham are presented a bit more gently, but still in a way that let kids see how frightening it is and how it personally touches the characters in the book.
For a special bonus, the audiobook is narrated by LeVar Burton, longtime host of Reading Rainbow. It is so cool to hear his narration of a great story, and how it got my kid who hates reading interested in a book.
I grew up watching LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow and will always have warmth and gratitude in my heart for him and all he’s done for children’s literacy.
Great book. If I could, I’d be like my kid and pester you until you either check it out at the library or buy it.