Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Publishing Info: Yearling books 1995
Awards or honors received: Newberry Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Award
Summary: This novel begins with a family called the "weird Watsons" sitting around in their living room freezing cold in Flint, Michigan. The family consist of a mother that is originally from Alabama, a dad, an oldest brother Bryon, a middle brother Kenny, and their youngest sister Joletta. The story follows their life as they deal with Bryon always causing trouble and getting into some kind of messes. The mother and father finally decide that they have had enough when Bryon comes home with a new hairdo that he knows his parents will not approve of. They decide to take Bryon to Alabama to spend the summer with his grandmother. Once in Alabama the children realize what a different world they have entered. Living in Flint the children never experienced any racial issues or segregation. Kenny also decides to be the rebelous child for once and go to the "Whool Pool" that his parents forbid him to go to. He ends up almost drowning, but Bryon ends up saving him. Later on Joletta ends up being at the church when the bombing happens. Kenny feels very upset that he did not protect his younger sister. When the family returns to Flint Kenny has a really hard time adjusting. He becomes very depressed and it's finally Bryon that helps Kenny be able to put it all behind him and move on. Throughout the story you see the characters change, especially Bryon and Kenny. Bryon struggles with getting rid of his hard outer shell and really showing his more caring and sensitive side while Kenny struggles with finding his place within his family and being brave.
Personal rating and reason for rating: Good book for middle school aged (especially african american students and it really gains the interest of teenage boys)
Reading level: 5.0
Interest level: 5th-8th grade
Possible uses of the text in integrated units of study (reading and writing across the curriculum): It was funny that David presented on this book last night because it was my last book that I just finished reading yesterday. I agree with all his activities that he suggested, but I thought that you could incoroporate map skills and have the students trace their route from Flint to Alabama that the family takes. Also the students could pick a character and role play one of the scenes in the book, because their are so many that are funny that it would be a very fun and engaging activity for the students.
Potential Problems or Difficulties: the topic of segregation would need to be covered before reading, along with discussions about Civil Rights. There are also a few places throughout the novel where bad language is used.