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Themes

Friends are tough, huh? They can be good influences (like Rufus) or bad influences (like Buphead), but either way, who we choose as friends and how we treat them has a lot to do with the kind of people we become. In The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, Kenny has a bad friend experience with LJ the Dinosaur Thief, but this helps him to appreciate just how good of a friend Rufus is. But Kenny and Rufus don't have a completely smooth ride either, and Kenny almost loses his friend when he joins the crowd in teasing Rufus about being poor. Kenny realizes that if he wants to keep his friends, he's got to be willing to stand by them—even if it means getting picked on himself.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Based on this book, what do you think the author would say are the most important qualities of a true friend?
  2. What lesson does Kenny learn when he almost loses Rufus as a friend? How does this lesson relate to why he feels ashamed of himself for leaving the church?
  3. Why do Kenny and Rufus become friends in the first place? Why do they remain friends?
  4. Are Byron and Kenny friends at any point in the book? Do you think they'll be friends in the future?

Chew on This

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

Kenny is wrong in the beginning to put his own self-interest ahead of befriending Rufus.

Kenny knows that if he and Rufus become friends, the bullies will pick on both of them twice as much, so it's okay that he avoids Rufus in the beginning. He's just trying to protect them both.

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