The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

By: 

Christopher Paul Curtis

Number of Pages: 

210

Minimum grade level: 

5th

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Some kids in Kenny's school make fun of him because he's smarter than most and because of his "lazy" eye. Then they pick on Rufus because of his clothes and his Southern accent. How does the teasing affect each of the two boys? How does it feel to be made fun of? How does it feel to make fun of someone else?
  2. Byron often seems like a mean kid, and sometimes he acts as though he hates Kenny. How do you know that he has deeper, nicer feelings than those? Why do you think Byron hides his feelings of love and tenderness?
  3. What does Kenny see at Colliers' Landing?
  4. Is Kenny a good friend to Rufus?
  5. If you have brothers and sisters, do you ever fight? What do you fight about? Do you think there will ever be a time when you don't fight?
  6. Why did Byron vomit after hitting the bird?
  7. Doe Byron deserve to be teased while being puncished?
  8. Even though the topic is very serious there is a lot of humor in this book. Find the scene in the book that you think is funniest and read it aloud.
  9. How does the bombing of the church in Birmingham change members of the Watson family, especially Kenny? Discuss how you felt when you read about the bombing and the children who were hurt or killed. Have you read or heard about similar events that have taken place recently? Why do such things happen? Do you think anything can stop them from happening?

Activities

Gather resources on the Civil Rights Movement, including Oh, Freedom! : Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement With The People Who Made It Happen by Casey King and Linda Barret Osborne ; foreword by Rosa Parks ; portraits by Joe Brooks,New York : A.A. Knopf, c1997. Share books and discuss what readers find interesting or related to the Birmingham bombings. Watch the Spike Lee documentary Four Little Girls and compare the film to the book.

Snacks

Pretend you are going on a long car trip. Bring what you would most like to eat. Maybe sandwiches like the Watsons or maybe your favorite treat. Portions of this discussion guide are credited to the Bantam Doubleday Dell Teacher's Guide and 100 Books for Girls to Grow On by Shireen Dodson.

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.