Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963
Picture Copyright © 2004 Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Author Notes
• The first African-American to win both the
Newbery & Coretta Scott King awards (2000)
• Born May 10, 1953.
• After high school he worked in a automobile
factory while going to college.
• He wrote the book on his breaks from the
automobile assembly line.
• He now lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada,
• He has wife and two children.
Christopher Paul Curtis’s Hobbies
1. Basketball
2. Collecting old record albums
Awards for his book published in
1995 - Runner-up for the Coretta
Scott King award for excellence by
an African-American writer
1995 – Runner-up for the Newbery
Winner 2000 - ALA Best Books for
Young Adults
Winner 2000 - ALA Notable
Children's Books
Winner 2000 - California Young
Reader Medal
The Watsons Go to
Birmingham ---1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis
•Centers around Kenny Watson - ten years old and
knows why his family is called “The Weird Watsons”
•His family leaves Flint, Michigan, to visit their
Grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama.
•The book is set in the year 1963. Many things are
happening in the United States related to Civil Rights
during this time.
•Kenny’s family consists of his older, bully of a brother
called Byron and his younger, pesky sister Joey.
During the visit to Birmingham, a church was bombed
(In real life it was the 16th Street Baptist Church)
4 little girls were killed in the church bombing---------------
Oh no, where is Joey, Kenny’s little sister, after the bomb went off.
She had gone to that very church!
Introducing A Novel
Author Notes
Background Notes
Novel Facts
Book Interview
How do we interview
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:
After the Civil War, laws and constitutional amendments
were passed to give equal rights to African Americans, but
the laws were often ignored, especially in the South.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:
For many years, African Americans in the South had to live
with segregation.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:
This meant African Americans had to use separate
bathrooms, water fountains, beaches, and other public
African Americans were also forced to ride in a
different section of busses and go to separate
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:
People like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., held
sit-ins and protests, gave speeches, organized boycotts, and
formed organizations to help people fight for equality.
Birmingham Civil Rights
• Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
• Scholastic Timeline
1963 - Alabama
June 12
(Jackson, Miss.) Mississippi's NAACP field secretary, 37-year-old Medgar Evers, is murdered
outside his home. Byron De La Beckwith is tried twice in 1964, both trials resulting in hung
juries. Thirty years later he is convicted for murdering Evers.
Aug. 28
During civil rights protests in Birmingham, Ala., Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull"
Connor uses fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators. These images of brutality, which
are televised and published widely, are instrumental in gaining sympathy for the civil rights
movement around the world.
(Washington, D.C.) About 200,000 people join the March on Washington. Congregating at the
Lincoln Memorial, participants listen as Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I Have a
Dream" speech.
Sept. 15
(Birmingham, Ala.) Four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and
Addie Mae Collins) attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth
Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham,
leading to the deaths of two more black youths.
The Book Interview
1. Front Cover / Back Cover
 What does the title imply about the story?
 What else do you notice about the cover?
 Read the back cover blurb. What stands out to you? Why?
2. Images
 What images do you see?
 What do they tell you about the story? Author?
3. About the Author
 What facts about the author will influence the book?
4. Random Page
 What did you read? What is happening?
Watsons Go to Birmingham
Literary Devices
• The setting of a novel refers to the time
and place the events occur.
• What is the setting of our novel?
– The setting of Flint, Michigan - 1963.
• An interesting first sentence or paragraph
in a novel that grabs the reader’s
• Reread the first paragraph. How does
this hook draw you into the novel?
Point of view
• Point of view refers to the person telling
the story.
• What Point of View is “Watsons” told?
• First Person Point of View.
• We are learning about the events as
Kenny experiences them.
• “I”, “My”, “We”…
Figurative Language
• Simile - comparison using “ like or as”
• Metaphor - implied comparison in which one
thing is called another.
• Hyperbole – comparison using exaggeration.
Find 2 Examples on Page 1
• A cliffhanger – a moment of heightened
suspense or tension. Encourages the reader to
continue reading.
• Foreshadowing refers to clues an author
gives to suggest what may happen later in
the novel.
• What do you think might be foreshadowed
by Mr. Robert’s story about saving his dog
from drowning?
• Mood is a feeling an author creates through
carefully chosen words and phrases,
settings, and events.
– Reread Chapter Fourteen. Where does the
mood change?
– Why was a change of mood necessary at this
point in the novel?
• Conflict, or the clash of opposing forces,
takes many forms in literature and often
provides the excitement in a novel.
• Types of conflict:
– Person vs. Person
– Person vs. Nature
– Person vs. Self

Watson Lessons