The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Chapter 2 Summary
by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 2 Summary

At Clark Elementary, Byron, who is in the sixth grade and very "cool," is like a god; Kenny, on the other hand, is "just another fourth-grade punk." In his own estimation, Kenny has two things wrong with him that make him the focus of teasing and ridicule at the hands of the other kids. The first thing wrong with him is that he loves to read. Teachers think Kenny is "real smart," and in the past, they have exploited his ability to read well by taking him to different classrooms to show off his skill and use him as an example. This, of course, has not endeared him to his peers.

Kenny remembers a terrible day two years previous when he, a second-grader, had been taken to read in front of Mr. Alums's fifth-grade class. Kenny had been horrified to find that this was Byron's class; to make things worse, Byron had been reprimanded for looking at his brother with "fire [in his] eyes." Byron had always been a poor student, and when Mr. Alum had told him that he would do well to emulate his little brother, Kenny had known that the whole thing was a very bad idea. After school, Byron and his best friend, Buphead, had caught up with Kenny and a crowd had formed, anticipating that Kenny was about to get beat up. Surprisingly, when Buphead made a characteristically threatening remark, Byron had told him to "leave the little clown alone." He had then punched Kenny softly on the arm and had told him, "At least you oughta make 'em pay you for doin' that mess." Kenny had been shocked to realize that Byron was proud of him. When the other students had seen that Byron wasn't going to do anything to Kenny for being smart, they decided that they had better not do anything either. Although Kenny still had to endure being called names alluding to his studiousness, such as "Egghead" and "Poindexter," things would have been much worse—except for Byron.

The second thing wrong with Kenny is that he has a lazy eye. Kenny has done exercises and even worn a patch over the eye to try to correct it, but his eyeball still insists on resting in the corner of his eye by his nose instead of looking where it is supposed to look. Byron helps Kenny with this problem as well, showing him how to keep his head straight and look at people sideways when he talks to them, so that his eyes are both looking in the same direction. This way, people are...

(The entire section is 647 words.)