The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

Christopher Paul Curtis

Study Guide

IMPORTANT REQUIREMENTS: Please purchase this book or otherwise make arrangements to have it for the 1st two weeks of school. You will need to define the vocabulary words, and answer the reading questions on loose-leaf paper, or you may type this work.


    Define the following vocabulary words as they are used in the story. Remember that some words may have more than one dictionary meaning. You are to use the definition that fits the word as it is used in the story.

    Emulate                                                       Intimidate

    Zombie                                                        Maestro

    Haphazardly                                               Puny

    Vittles                                                        Wilier (wily)

    Thugs                                                         Pervasive


Building Background:

    • Before reading, research the Civil Rights Movement from 1950-1965. Make a time line showing dates of important events.

    • On a map of the United States, locate Flint, Michigan and Birmingham, Alabama. Determine the distance by car between these two cities and figure out how long the car-ride would be. As you read the book, trace the family’s journey on a map.

During Reading: Answer the following questions.

    1. What shows that the Watsons are not well off financially?
    2. How do the two brothers show that they care for one another?
    3. Why does Byron tell Kenny and Joey the story about the garbage trucks?
    4. Why does Kenny feel that his brother is difficult to understand?
    5. Why do you think Larry Dunn is a bully? Why might Byron think it is necessary to treat him so harshly?
    6. How does Dad punish Byron for processing (dyeing) his hair? Do you think this was a fair punishment?
    7. How does Kenny reveal his admiration for his father?
    8. Why does Momma and Dad think Byron needs to stay with Grandma Sands in Birmingham?
    9. How does Dad justify the decision to send Byron to Birmingham?
    10. Why does Momma prepare so carefully for the trip?
    11. What surprises Kenny about Byron’s reactions to life at Grandma Sands’ house?
    12. How does Kenny behave after the incident at Collier’s Landing? Why isn’t anyone concerned about his behavior?
    13. Why do Momma and Daddy worry more about Kenny than about their other children when they return to Detroit?
    14. In what unexpected ways did the trip south change Byron?

After Reading:

    • Imagine that you are Kenny and that a year has passed since your trip to Birmingham. Write a journal entry telling about what has happened to your family in the year since the bombings.

Summer Work