THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look--he has a lazy eye--and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear--as do many first novelists--but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 044022800X
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: Delacorte