Thinking Guide for The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963
Chapters 11- 15
The drive to Alabama • The Watsons drive straight through from Flint to Birmingham without staying overnight anywhere.
Grandma Sands’ smell • She smells like baby powder.
Grandma Sands’ walk • Grandma Sands walks with a cane because she had a little stroke.
Byron’s response to Grandma Sands • Byron respectfully responded to his grandma by calling her “ma’am”.
Mr. Robert • Grandma Sands’ very good friend .
Collier’s Landing • Collier’s Landing is a swimming hole where no one is allowed to swim.
Buster Brown shoe in the rubble • Kenny pulled a Buster Brown shoe from the rubble of the church. Joetta wear Buster Brown shoes.
Kenny’s thoughts of Joey and the Wool Pool • Kenny was convinced the Wool Pooh had tried to snatch Joey away from the family.
The World Famous Watson’s Pet Hospital •The World Famous Watson Pet Hospital is behind the couch.
Momma’s thoughts about Kenny and the church • Momma tries to force Kenny to interact with his family after he experiences all of the terrible things that happened on the day of the bombing. Byron tells him about how Kenny saved Joey and tells him how brave he was for doing what he did. There were no magic powers or a Wool Pooh.
Dad’s feeling about “country names” • Dad has a good sense of humor. Dad wants to give the kids country names.
Grandma Sands’ opinion of how the children behave •“Lona, what you teach these babies up North?” Grandma Sands gives the kids a hug that was not considered good enough to her.
The “coon” and the water • Mr. Robert talks about this when describing the old raccoon hunting dog in Birmingham.
The “Wool Pool” •“I told you the Wool Pooh was some made-up garbage.” Kenny realizes. This was a story told to him to keep him away from Collier’s Landing. Grandma Sands warns the children to stay away from Collier’s Landing on their trip to get water for the house, something about a whirlpool catching a boy up in the water and taking him under
Mamma’s anger about the 18 hour trip -
The “fight” coming out of Byron •
Byron’s return to Flint, Michigan •
Changes in the characters Kenny and Byron (during - after) Warning signs at Collier’s Landing •
The different themes from The Watsons Go To Birmingham-
There are disastrous and hurtful effects because of racism, prejudice, and discrimination. In the book, the most obvious effect is the bomb that goes off in the church. (the cruel treatment that Rufus receives from other schoolchildren in Flint) (the fear that the Watson family feels as they drive further south knowing that they cannot simply stop at a motel and expect to be welcome).
A supportive family can help through difficult times. When Kenny needs help most Byron is there to save him from drowning. He also helps him overcome the trauma of the bombing. Even though their relationship with Byron is difficult at times, Momma and Dad make their children feel loved and cared about.
The nature of friendship is important. Kenny at first sees Rufus as a "personal saver" because he will be made fun of more than Kenny. Then Kenny grows to like him as they spend time together. After he hurts Rufus's feelings and Rufus refuses to play with him, Kenny realizes how much he wants Rufus's friendship. Kenny learns that a friend is more than a playmate. A friend is someone whom you enjoy as a person and someone you can trust..
The novel deals with grieving. It also deals with the different ways and different people dealing with trauma and loss. Kenny realizes that sometimes his parents talk about the event angrily, and sometimes they just cry. Kenny is unable to talk about what happened and hides from his family. Thanks to Byron, he allows his pain and guilt to emerge. It was his own brother Byron that helps Kenny past the trauma and return to a normal life.