This is the story of ten-year-old Kenny Watson and his family, known as the "Weird Watsons" as he grows up in Flint, Michigan. He lives with his dad, his momma, his older brother, Byron, and his little sister, Joetta, or "Joey." He's used to being picked on at school because he has a lazy eye, but when two new students from the South come to live in Flint, the bullies have a new target. However, Kenny and Rufus soon become good friends. Byron is a little trouble-maker because he has just turned thirteen and is too cool for school. Mr. & Mrs. Watson decide that Byron is going to spend the summer with Grandma Sands in Birmingham, Alabama, maybe longer if he doesn't get his act together. The family makes the long eighteen hour drive from Michigan to Alabama. They get to Birmingham right before the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963 where four little girls in Sunday School were killed and many more injured. The final chapters of the book are about Kenny's reaction to the bombing.
However, once the church bombings took place, it was really interesting to see Kenny's reaction and how he tried to process what happened. I was really worried at first that Joey would have been one of the little girls who had died because Kenny couldn't find her but then I didn't think they would write the story from one of the little girl's brother's perspective.
I liked that the Epilogue was full of historical information so that the reader could get more details on what was happening during this time period. It also let the reader know that the author was historically accurate in his portrayal.
I thought this quote was so funny when I read it:
Now, your mother and I made a deal when we first got married that if either one of us ever watched the 'wunnerful, wunnerful' Lawrence Welk Show or listened to country music the other one got to get a free divorce. I'm kind of used to your mother and I don't want to have her dump me, so instead of taking the chance I would get hooked on hillbilly music I thought it would be wise to bring our own sounds along with us. (p. 126)This book has won quite a few awards. One specific award that hasn't been mentioned in my blog yet, is the Coretta Scott King Award. "The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood."
Scholastic.com has a Reading Guide written by Amy Griffin for the book to use with students. It gives information about Christopher Paul Curtis and how the story came to be. There are a lot of guiding questions and information to help students dissect the plot, characters, and themes.
Bud, Not Buddy. I've never read this book before but it also takes place in Flint, Michigan. And of course, it won so many awards, so it is definitely worth your time to read as well (this just adds another book to my list now!)
Check out this Flocabulary Hip Hop History to Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream Speech during the Civil Rights Movement. It's pretty catchy!! (Click on Listen to a Song on the right side)