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Kenny's nickname for the family is the 'Weird Watsons.'

In the novel, Kenny is ten years old. At the beginning of the story, all five members of the Watson family are wrapped up in blankets against the cold of a Michigan winter's day.

Mr. Watson turns on the television to get his family to forget about the cold. Unfortunately, the newscaster informs viewers that the weather is likely to get colder as the night approaches. Undefeated, Kenny's father tries to tell a funny story about his wife's former suitor, Moses 'Hambone' Henderson. His humorous story-telling style has the kids in stitches.

However, Mrs. Watson says that she should have listened to Moses and stayed in Alabama, where life is slower-paced and the people friendlier. Her husband contends that black people still live under the Jim Crow laws in Alabama, but Mrs. Watson counters that, in Alabama, 'people are more honest about the way they feel' and 'folks there do know how to respect their parents.'

Eventually, Kenny's father decides to contact Aunt Cydney to ask whether they can spend the night at her house. Accordingly, Aunt Cydney just had a new furnace put in, and her house is always warm. All five go outside to get the family's 1948 Plymouth (nicknamed the 'Brown Bomber') ready for the trip. Kenny's father assigns the boys to scrape ice off the windows of the car. Both Kenny and Byron (By) quibble over the work they have to do. For himself, By isn't too interested in cleaning off the windows.

However, Kenny soon realizes that something is wrong when By calls for help in a funny way. When he turns to look, Kenny realizes that By's lips are stuck to the mirror on the side of the car. Aside from Mr. Watson dissolving into bouts of uncontrollable laughter, no one quite knows how to extricate By from his unfortunate predicament.

Kenny states that this incident, which involves all of his family members crying in the driveway on a cold, winter's day, is the reason why all the neighbors dub the family the 'Weird Watsons.'

It’s no wonder the neighbors called us the Weird Watsons behind our backs.There we were, all five of us standing around a car with the temperature about a million degrees below zero and each and every one of us crying!

Read the study guide:
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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