illustrated close-up of Kenny Watson with fire in the background behind him

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis
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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Questions and Answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

There are personal, familial, and societal conflicts in this novel. The familial conflict centers around Kenny's older brother, Byron, who has become the neighborhood bully in Flint, Michigan,...

Latest answer posted February 12, 2017, 2:59 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In chapter 2 of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, Kenny displays his advanced reading skills in front of Mr. Alums's class of fifth-graders. Mr. Alums wants to use Kenny as a way of driving home...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 2:11 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

A dynamic character is one who changes, typically because of some conflict he or she encounters. Kenny transforms in his views of Byron. For much of the book, Kenny sees his brother as a tough,...

Latest answer posted June 3, 2020, 9:02 pm (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny is often picked on by the other kids on the bus, especially if his brother Byron isn't on the bus. One day, the driver picks up two new kids. Kenny immediately senses that a miracle is...

Latest answer posted February 24, 2019, 7:19 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Joetta leaves the church early because of the stifling heat. And thank goodness that she did, because otherwise she would've been caught up in the bomb blast that happened not long afterwards....

Latest answer posted June 14, 2020, 6:34 am (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

After the Watsons arrive in Alabama, Byron seemingly becomes a nicer boy overnight. Accordingly, the family makes the trip to Alabama in order to visit Grandma Sands and also to drop Byron off for...

Latest answer posted January 22, 2016, 8:37 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Thirteen-year-old Byron ("By") is a "juvenile delinquent" in the terminology of the times and the older brother to the main character, Kenny. By cultivates a cool, tough-guy demeanor, and he is in...

Latest answer posted June 21, 2019, 6:47 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

One of the conflicts in the story is Kenny's difficulty with social adjustment. He has a lazy eye which makes him look different, and is very intelligent, a characteristic which does not endear...

Latest answer posted August 27, 2008, 3:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Those who follow banned books seem genuinely bemused as to why The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 was banned from middle schools by two school districts. The banners were the Nebo School District in...

Latest answer posted December 14, 2021, 2:53 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Lexile Range for the book is @920L, or 5th- to 6th-grade level book. Scholastic ranks the book a U, which correlates to a 6th- to 7th-grade level book. The DRA Level is 50, correlating to the...

Latest answer posted February 15, 2019, 12:38 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

On the surface, the teenage Byron Watson and the elderly Grandma Sands may seem completely different. Byron is deeply attached to his urban lifestyle and is dismayed at the thought of spending a...

Latest answer posted February 5, 2020, 5:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The resolution of this great novel comes after the climax, which comes in Chapter 15 when Kenny, with Byron's help, is finally able to express his emotions about what he has seen and observed...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2010, 11:32 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

I would want to argue that the major conflict we see in this story is an internal conflict based in the character of Kenny, our narrator, who we gradually see being forced to grow up through the...

Latest answer posted June 5, 2011, 8:51 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Mr. Robert (this is his first name) is the maternal grandmother's "friend." Since he is living with her, he is more than a friend, but as old as Grandma Sands and Mr. Robert are, they are probably...

Latest answer posted June 3, 2015, 3:33 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watsons have a 1948 Plymouth that is described as very big and dull brown. They received it when it was 13 years old and have had it for two years, and it sometimes doesn't start up in the...

Latest answer posted July 4, 2016, 10:26 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Setting is key in this novel, especially relating to the civil rights movement and the extent to which it had an uneven spread across America. Kenny and his family live in Flint, in the North,...

Latest answer posted September 4, 2013, 5:43 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny's father decides to install the True Tone AB-700, the "Ultra-Glide," in the Brown Bomber after Byron's latest episode of troublemaking. Byron's bad behavior spurs the Watsons to decide to...

Latest answer posted June 8, 2016, 2:51 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Momma packed clothes for the family and put them in a suitcase, and put "a whole bunch of food" in a borrowed cooler, but that was just the beginning of the things she did to get ready for the trip...

Latest answer posted March 24, 2009, 1:40 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny is a gifted reader and his teacher likes to show off his reading abilities to the other classes. When Kenny is asked to read in front of Byron's class, he is afraid that Byron will be angry...

Latest answer posted February 23, 2016, 3:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The main theme of the story is relationships, especially family relationships, within the Watson family, who live in Michigan and travel to visit relatives in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2007, 12:58 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Believe it or not, Byron spends so much time on the couch towards the end of this story because he is concerned about his younger brother Kenny and the way that he is acting since they returned to...

Latest answer posted November 15, 2013, 6:30 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Mrs. Davidson has always thought kindly of her young neighbor, Joetta, who is also known as Joey. When Mrs. Davidson comes over in Chapter 9, she tells the children that she is going to miss them...

Latest answer posted May 16, 2020, 7:53 pm (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

It is true. In chapter four, “Froze-Up Southern Folks,” the narrator states that his mother, originally from the warm climate of Alabama, thought the cold winters in Flint had the potential to...

Latest answer posted February 26, 2019, 7:56 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, the Watson family takes a trip from Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama, Mom’s hometown. Dad tells Kenny that the only music...

Latest answer posted March 9, 2016, 10:15 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Byron gets sick after hitting the bird for a couple of reasons. He had just eaten "a bag and a half of Swedish Cremes and some green apples", so he probably wasn't feeling too well to...

Latest answer posted June 10, 2008, 7:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny Watson is the multi-faceted, 10-year-old protagonist of The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963. He is the middle child in the Watson family, wedged between his older brother, Byron, and younger...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2011, 7:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny emerges an essentially good person, but he also seems like a real person—not some abstracted symbol of virtue. Many of the situations in which Christopher Paul Curtis places Kenny reveal his...

Latest answer posted February 28, 2019, 9:22 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny, who is a bit of a nerd, is the target of kids' abuse on the bus until two new kids show up to take the bus. From attending Sunday school, Kenny is aware of the idea of a savior—someone who...

Latest answer posted October 25, 2018, 2:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watson family lives in Flint, a city north of Detroit, in east Michigan. To reach Alabama, they will first go through Ohio, which is directly to the south of eastern Michigan. From there, they...

Latest answer posted August 26, 2019, 5:13 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

There are two things about Kenny which, were it not for the fact that Byron, the god of the school, is his brother, might have resulted in him being teased very badly. In the first instance, he is...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 2:08 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, the Ultra-Glide is the expensive record player that Dad buys for the family car, called the Brown Bomber, in Chapter 8. Dad installs the Ultra-Glide, which...

Latest answer posted March 22, 2016, 12:51 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Byron has vague memories of his time in Birmingham more than 10 year earlier—which included fear of his grandmother, so he is not eager to return. When the family arrives, however, he cannot...

Latest answer posted November 24, 2019, 5:02 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

A "butter" or a "conk" is a hairstyle that was popular with some African Americans back in the 1960s. It involved using caustic chemicals, sometimes lye, to straighten the hair so that it could be...

Latest answer posted November 3, 2009, 12:49 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

I don't know if I would use the word "upset" precisely. Rather I would use the word concerned. When the Watsons finally reach Birmingham, Alabama in Chapter 12 and are reunited with Grandma Sands,...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2010, 7:48 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watson children attend Clark Elementary School, and Byron shortens the name of the school to "Clark" when speaking of it. Poindexter is a name which is associated with a stereotypical "nerdy"...

Latest answer posted August 27, 2010, 9:00 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The mood of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 begins as light and humorous. As readers become acquainted with this family, it's hard not to chuckle when Byron's self-love results in getting his...

Latest answer posted December 15, 2021, 12:06 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Kenny has spent the entire book on the receiving end of Byron's threats and insults. He has watched Byron defy their parents and get himself into trouble over and over. As the younger brother,...

Latest answer posted December 17, 2021, 11:36 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Byron originally makes up the idea of the Wool Pooh, describing it as a kind of bogey man who hides underwater and snatches away children, in order to scare Kenny and Joey so they won't go near...

Latest answer posted May 23, 2007, 1:45 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In the first chapter of the book, Bryon and Buphead give Kenny a "test" to make sure he's ready to survive a blizzard. Kenny later realizes that he "should have known that the only reason Buphead...

Latest answer posted December 6, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Byron's lips become stuck to the car mirror on an extremely cold day. He is leaning over the outside mirror of the car, looking at himself from very close. While he is inspecting his reflection, he...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 1:51 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Larry Dunn has stolen Kenny's fancy rabbit-fur-lined gloves. It's not surprising that he did this, because he usually wears socks as mittens, so the temptation to steal some good quality gloves...

Latest answer posted February 7, 2019, 6:34 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 is important because it presents the historical relevance of one particularly abhorrent moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The characters in the book...

Latest answer posted December 15, 2021, 11:48 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Fourth grader Kenny is an exceptionally good reader at Clark Elementary School. He remembers back to the second grade, when he also excelled as a reader. His teacher, Miss Henry, singled him out...

Latest answer posted January 20, 2021, 2:12 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In Chapter 2 of The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, the two things that Kenny thinks are wrong with him are that he is smart, and that he has a lazy eye. From a very young age, Kenny has been able...

Latest answer posted August 5, 2010, 12:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

At the beginning of the novel, Byron is so badly behaved that Momma and Dad are pretty worried about him. Kenny describes Byron as "officially a teenage juvenile delinquent" (2). Byron shows a lack...

Latest answer posted July 4, 2018, 12:42 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Byron was apparently kissing his own reflection in the sideview mirror of the Brown Bomber, the Watson's 1948 Plymouth. Since it was a bitterly cold day, well below freezing, his lips froze onto...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2008, 5:08 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

In The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, the Watson family goes to Alabama to visit Grandma Sands, Momma’s mother. When the family arrives, Grandma Sands says she is glad...

Latest answer posted March 10, 2016, 5:42 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

Momma and Dad have made it quite clear to Byron that they disapprove of the "conk" hairstyle popular among young black youth at that time. Momma says,"You've known all along how we...

Latest answer posted May 14, 2008, 7:05 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watson's Go to Birmingham is a novel written by Christopher Paul Curtis and is somewhat based on true events. Byron Watson is a main character in this novel and is quickly introduced as a...

Latest answer posted December 19, 2018, 7:13 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The simple answer is that Joetta saw someone else and thought it was Kenny. Her confusion parallels that of Kenny himself. In the aftermath of the terrible bomb that devastated the church, Kenny...

Latest answer posted November 17, 2018, 8:39 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

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