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Themes

Let's face it—Byron is a fool for most of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. He seems to make the dumbest decision possible every chance he gets, which means he's trouble all the time. But it's not just about getting in trouble; some of Byron's choices are so foolish (um, playing with matches in the house, anyone?) that they could have dire consequences. And that's exactly what Momma and Dad are afraid of if Byron keeps it up. Finally, Momma and Dad decide they need to do something drastic to scare Byron straight—and that's where Grandma Sands and the trip to Birmingham come in. And sure enough, the trip does get Byron into shape, but not in the way anyone expects.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Okay, so Byron gets a bad hairdo in Chapter 7. It happens to all of us, right? But why are Momma and Dad so upset about this particular hairdo? Why is this the last straw?
  2. Do you agree with Momma and Dad's decision to send Byron to Birmingham? Look especially at the way Dad explains things to Kenny in Chapter 9. Do you agree that this is the best way to get through to Byron? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think is the most foolish thing a character does in the book? Why?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Byron is a bad influence on Kenny, and Kenny makes bad choices only by following Byron's example.

Being foolish is a necessary part of growing up. You can only learn from your own mistakes, so Kenny's foolish choices have nothing to do with Byron's influence.

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