The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
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Reading Level:7 - 12
From the bookAnd You Wonder Why We Get Called the Weird Watsons
It was one of those super-duper-cold Saturdays. One of those days that when you breathed out your breath kind of hung frozen in the air like a hunk of smoke and you could walk along and look exactly like a train blowing out big, fat, white puffs of smoke.
It was so cold that if you were stupid enough to go outside your eyes would automatically blink a thousand times all by themselves, probably so the juice inside of them wouldn't freeze up. It was so cold that if you spit, the slob would be an ice cube before it hit the ground. It was about a zillion degrees below zero.
It was even cold inside our house. We put sweaters and hats and scarves and three pairs of socks on and still were cold. The thermostat was turned all the way up and the furnace was banging and sounding like it was about to blow up but it still felt like Jack Frost had moved in with us.
All of my family sat real close together on the couch under a blanket. Dad said this would generate a little heat but he didn't have to tell us this, it seemed like the cold automatically made us want to get together and huddle up. My little sister, Joetta, sat in the middle and all you could see were her eyes because she had a scarf wrapped around her head. I was next to her and on the outside was my mother.
Momma was the only one who wasn't born in Flint so the cold was coldest to her. All you could see were her eyes too, and they were shooting bad looks at Dad. She always blamed him for bringing her all the way from Alabama to Michigan, a state she called a giant icebox. Dad was bundled next to Joey, trying to look at anything but Momma. Next to Dad, sitting with a little space between them, was my older brother, Byron.
Byron had just turned thirteen so he was officially a teenage juvenile delinquent and didn't think it was "cool" to touch anybody or let anybody touch him, even if it meant he froze to death. Byron had tucked the blanket between him and Dad down into the cushion of the couch to make sure he couldn't be touched.
Dad turned on the TV to try to make us forget how cold we were but all that did was get him in trouble. There was a special news report on Channel 12 telling how bad the weather was and Dad groaned when the guy said, "If you think it's cold now, wait until tonight, the temperature is expected to drop into record-low territory, possibly reaching the negative twenties! In fact, we won't be seeing anything above zero for the next four to five days!" He was smiling when he said this but none of the Watson family thought it was funny. We all looked over at Dad. He just shook his head and pulled the blanket over his eyes.
Then the guy on the TV said, "Here's a little something we can use to brighten our spirits and give us some hope for the future: The temperature in Atlanta, Georgia is forecast to reach . . ." Dad coughed real loud and jumped off the couch to turn the TV off but we all heard the weatherman say, ". . . the mid-seventies!" The guy might as well have tied Dad to a tree and said, "Ready, aim, fire!"
"Atlanta!" Momma said. "That's a hundred and fifty miles from home!"
"Wilona . . . ," Dad said.
"I knew it," Momma said. "I knew I should have listened to Moses Henderson!"
"Who?" I asked.
Dad said, "Oh Lord, not that sorry story. You've got to let me tell about what happened with him."
Momma said, "There's not a whole lot to tell, just a story about a young girl who made a bad choice. But if you do tell it, make sure you get all the facts right."
We all huddled as close as we could get because we knew Dad was going to try to make us forget about...
- Written in 1995, Christopher Paul Curtis captures the Watson family in 1963 as a timepiece. Curtis's story is a strong one with humor, tragedy and family life finely interwoven. Portraying the African-American family living in Flint, Michigan, Levar Burton needs to recreate an era more than 30 years ago. Burton doesn't quite manage to make us believe this is a family of the '60's. The epilogue directed to a young audience has an important message for listeners putting the story of the Watsons in historic perspective. R.F.W. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Publishers Weekly, Starred, Boxed Review "An exceptional first novel."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred "Superb . . . a warmly memorable evocation of an African American family."
The New York Times Book Review "Marvelous . . . both comic and deeply moving."
- School Library Journal, Starred "Ribald humor . . . and a totally believable child's view of the world will make this book an instant hit."
PublisherPenguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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