The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

  • by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Narrated by LeVar Burton
  • 4 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, Kenny, and Byron, Kenny's older brother, who at thirteen is an "official juvenile delinquent."
When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. Heading south, they're going to Birmingham, Alabama, and toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.
By turns comic, tragic and touching, this remarkable Newbery Honor work, delightfully performed by LeVar Burton in this unabridged production, will delight listeners young and old as they meet Christopher Paul Curtis, a storyteller of bold ambition and a true and original voice, and his inimitable Watsons.


What the Critics Say

"Marvelous...both comic and deeply moving." (The New York Times Book Review)
"An exceptional first novel." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Entertaining but I didn't like the coarse language

My 10-year-old son and I enjoyed -- for the most part -- listening to this story together after his younger siblings went to bed. We both enjoyed the comic telling of the story, and the narrator is absolutely first-rate. The character development comes alive, although I didn't see where the plot was going for quite a while into the story. What I didn't like is any references to the coarser language that I do not want my homeschooled kids exposed to -- one of the reasons I homeschool is to avoid early exposure to things like vulgarities and coarse language (it'll come, I know, I know). So, I didn't appreciate references to "giving him the dirty finger" and "he said the s-word" and "get the hell away from me" and the like. It's a good story and I enjoyed the character development, but bad characters don't HAVE to curse and swear -- especially in a story that's geared towards children. In sum, I wouldn't let a child under 12 or 13 listen to this story, and even then, it'd depend on the circumstances. It's not a must-listen story, marred by the brief albeit troublesome references I've just noted.
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- famousdavis

Required reading but not too bad

I was required to "read" this book for a college level children's literature class. Usually when I'm assigned required reading I expect to be bored to tears because the books professors tend to pick are not often the types of books I prefer. However, this book wasn't bad. Along with "Alas Babylon" (required for another class) this was one of the better books I've been assigned. I was glad to see LaVar Burton as the narrator. I love his voice. It brought back so many memories of watching Reading Rainbow as a kid. His voice always sounds so relaxing and gentle. I feel like I'm curled up in front of a cozy fire no matter where I am when I hear him read. LaVar also has excellent diction and he utilizes pauses very well. He might not do voices like other narrators, but for this book it was just fine with me.

The story was also good. I wasn't able to relate to it completely or clearly judge it's realness because I'm not old enough to have experienced these events & others like it, I live in the North, and I'm white. That being said, I feel like it did give me a decent glimpse into what this family felt and experienced in both Flint, Michigan & Birmingham, Alabama at that time in history. It was interesting to see how children might have dealt with experiencing major civil rights events, how they worked out those emotions & logic in their own mind, and how they related it to what was happening in their own lives at the time.

All in all I think it's a good story & worth the listen, for kids & even an adult like me. :)
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- Amazon Customer "I love a good cozy mystery or paranormal book. Some of my favorites are Dresden Files, Stephanie Plum, the Hollows, & Hannah Swenson series."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-31-2003
  • Publisher: Listening Library