Why does Kenny think he should have stayed at the church and fought the Wool Pooh in Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963?  

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his confused mind, Kenny thinks that the Wool Pooh had his little sister Joey in the aftermath of the bombing of the Birmingham church.  Instead of staying and fighting for her like Byron had fought him a few days before to save his life, Kenny had run away.  Kenny is deeply ashamed of himself.  He thinks he should have been brave enough to fight the Wool Pooh for his sister's life.

The Wool Pooh is an entity Byron made up to scare Kenny from swimming at Collier's Landing, where the tides are known to be very dangerous.  When Kenny goes into the water anyway and almost drowns, Byron saves him from the clutches of the Wool Pooh, which has taken on mythic proportions in Kenny's mind, and is to him the personification of death.  Already traumatized by his experience at the Landing, Byron stumbles into the smoking wreckage of the bombed-out Church where Joey attends a few days later.  He sees the broken bodies of little girls being carried out, and finds "a shiny, shiny black shoe lying halfway underneath some concrete".  Thinking it is Joey, Kenny grabs the shoe but feels, "hanging on to the other end of the shoe (is) a giant gray hand with cold, hard square fingers...the Wool Pooh".  The shoe pops loose from "a frilly white sock", just like the one his sister wore.  Kenny is confused, but senses that he should stay and fight the Wool Pooh for Joey's life like his brother did a few days before for his, but he is terrified and walks away, wanting only that the Wool Pooh to leave him alone. 

Even though Kenny subsequently learns that his sister is fine, the double trauma is too much for him.  Overwhelmed with shame that he did not have the courage to fight the Wool Pooh for his sister's life, he withdraws from human interaction until his brother reaches him and helps him come around (Chapters 14-15).


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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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