27 November 2007

22. The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

A great book about a very close family who lives in Flint Michigan. Because the oldest son, Byron, is becoming a juvenile delinquent the family decides he should live with the grandmother down in Alabama. So, off they go on a roadtrip.

About 9/10 of the book is dedicated to character development and establishing the close knit ties between the parents and the kids. The oldest brother constantly picks on our narrator, ten-year-old Kenny. And there is a little sister Joetta.

The voice of the main character and narrator is hilarious. Curtis does a great job getting inside the head of Kenny.

The family drives to Alabama and gets there just in time for the church bombing that killed four little girls and blinded two others. For such a climactic moment there is very little politicking and lecturing in the book. Kenny has a hard time with the bombing and the causes and consequences of the bombing, and his bully brother Byron helps him work through it.

It was a very quick read. This book won honors (I guess that means not-first place) in both the Newberry Awards and the Coretta Scott King awards. I think it would be a great companion to the recent Presidential Medal of Freedom Award winning To Kill a Mockingbird.

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