Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
I LOVED this book as a child. I know it isn't new or anything, but I want to review it because it is just an incredible book that deals with an important piece of history that I personally, did not really know a lot about. The book deals with various hilarious incidents on the life of the main character Kenny, who is around eleven years old. Kenny has an older brother Byron who is a little bit of a bully and a younger sister Jo that he adores. Most of the book focuses on the crazy antics that Kenny gets up to and the relationship he has with the rest of the people in his family. Byron is pretty mean to Kenny and picks on him a lot, but he also stands up for him when it is necessary and gets in to some pretty crazy situations himself. Most of the books is funny and light, any middle schooler reading it would think it's funny and hilarious and it is. However, towards the end of the book, the whole family takes a trip down to Birmingham (like in the title!) While the trip starts in the same vein as the rest of the book, (crazy pranks and angry parents) it takes a much more serious turn when Kenny's sister Jo is at the 16 street Baptist Church on the day it gets bombed in a vicious hate crime. Here is some information about the bombing if you want to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing
Suffice to say, the book takes a slightly more intense turn (although it ends on an upbeat note) and we the readers are introduced to an event in history that is often overlooked.
I think it is great that there are books out there that cover this lesser known historical events. It might surprise some people out there that a lot of schools today don't cover things that seem really important to us. When I was in New York recently I was shocked that people my own age had never heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, so it is great that this particular event is being represented in a way that is extremely accessible to children. Are there other events out there that need a bigger presence in YA literature?