The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 {A Must Read Mentor Text}



I’m linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text Linky Party.  I decided that I just had to share with you my most favoristist (and yes, I know that’s not a real word) book in the world, The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963.  I have been reading this book with students for 10 years!  Lately, I’ve been unable to do the entire novel for a few reasons – but I use it as a mentor text to teach Author’s Craft; in particular, Flashback.

Barnes and Noble Summary:

A wonderful middle-grade novel narrated by Kenny, 9, about his middle-class black family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny’s 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, they head South to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandma’s church is blown up.

The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

If you’ve never read The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 (gasp), you’ve missed out on a treat!  Christopher Paul Curtis does an excellent job of drawing you in with the antics of Byron and Kenny!  Believe when I say I am crying with laughter by the time we get to the middle of chapter one – EVERY SINGLE TIME!  This book is a great example of historical fiction because it highlights the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four little girls were killed.

There are wonderful examples of flashback in the first few chapters which is all I read with the students now.  But, because I have a class set of them in my classroom, many of the students grab the book to finish it on their own. Jackpot!!

But it only gets better!  I just found out that they are finally turning this awesome book into a movie!  Can you see me dancing?  Can you? Whoop!  Check out the movie trailer here.

As a celebration, my Flashback flipchart using The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 will be free for 24 hours!  Get it while it’s hot!  Click here to get it from my TpT store.

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Click on any of the images to link up!

Until the next time,



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    Thank you so much! I remember reading this book when it was “new” when I was in fifth grade! I felt so connected to the characters! It’s a must read! About how long do you plan this lesson on Authors Craft/Flashbacks and around what time of year do you do it? Do you have a special non-fiction piece you pair it with?

    Thanks Again!


    • Thanks for stopping by! I usually spend two weeks on Author’s Craft – but that includes tone, flashback, and foreshadowing. I usually hit this around September. The non fiction pieces I use focus on the Civil Rights Movement – The Ruby Bridges Story and videos from the Eyes on the Prize series. We also watch bits and pieces of Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls documentary.


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