Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Watsons Go to Birminghan--1963 (Audio Book)

Title: The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (Audio)
Author:  Christopher Paul Curtis
Narrator:  Levar Burton
Published:  1995
Length:  4 hours and 47 minutes
Acquired:  Local library
Awards:  Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Honor
Author Website
Personal Enjoyment Factor:  4.5/5

Ten-year old Kenny, with a lazy eye and a talent for reading, tell us the story of his family, the "Weird Watsons", and their life in freezing Flint, Michigan.  His humorous tale focuses primarily on his older brother Byron who just can't seem to stay out of trouble.  When there seems no other hope for Byron other than sending him to live with his Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, the whole family takes a road trip south, where they will encounter first hand the violence of that time and place.

The best testament I can give of the greatness of this book is that I was listening to it in the car, which I normally can't do--my mind usually wanders, so I mainly stick to house-cleaning audio-book experiences.  But I was completely engaged in the story from beginning to end.  I laughed, I cried, I loved the characters and hurt when they were hurting, and rejoiced when they found little joys in life.  Curtis is one of those authors that can blend humor with tragedy in a beautiful and novel way, and I love it! The audio version is read by LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow guy!!) and he does a superb job.  

I've read Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery winner, I believe) by Curtis, and remember really liking it, but I read it pre-blog days, and my memory is hazy.  All that comes to mind is oatmeal and brown sugar, and I'm not really sure why.  It's sad that sometimes those silly things are all I remember about a good book.  But at least I know I can enjoy it all over again someday as if I had never read it before.  Elijah of Buxton is next of my Curtis TBR list, sitting right on my library book shelf and awaiting the 48 Hour Book Challenge coming up in early June.  


  1. Just wanted to affirm the goodness of this book! I read it aloud to friends in college. :)

  2. Buffy,
    It's perfect for reading aloud. I should read it to my kids someday.

  3. Lovely review! The book is certainly added to my wishlist.

  4. I have not read this one, but I read Bud, Not Buddy earlier this week, and you are correct in recalling oatmeal and brown sugar. Your memory is not so hazy!

  5. This sounds wonderful! I hadn't made the connection that this was the same Curtis as the other Newbery winners. I'm hoping I get to all these when my son is older (he's still just a toddler.)

    Thanks for this review.

  6. My students and I enjoyed this book, but the ending was so confusing. Did anyone understand it? Particularly how he found his sister's shoe, but she wasn't there.

  7. sheisreading,
    It was actually the ending that kept me from giving this five stars. I don't remember exactly about the shoe--if it was hers or not--just that it was somewhat miraculous that she saw Kenny the same way Kenny saw her when he was drowning in the lake so they both had a chance to save the other. It was all rather jumbled in the end, and could have been written clearer or different or something.

  8. Hmmm -- ya'all are making me want to re-read this one now, to re-visit the ending...