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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Mortality Theme

Lessons about mortality c/o The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:
• We can't live forever.
• The people we love won't live forever.
• Death can strike anywhere at any time.
• Sometimes death is just plain senseless.
• A person can hate someone they have never met—enough to kill them.

That's a tough set of lessons for anyone, right? Especially for a ten-year-old. But unfortunately, that's just what Kenny and the rest of the Watsons are in for. First the mourning dove dies, then Kenny nearly drowns, then the bomb at the church kills four little girls. Each time, death strikes a little closer to home. And this forces our characters, especially Byron and Kenny, to learn some pretty grown-up lessons about just how deadly hate is and how fragile life is.

Questions About Mortality

  1. When death is imminent, why do you think Kenny sees Joey and Joey sees Kenny?
  2. What do you think Byron learns about death from killing the mourning dove?
  3. Why does Kenny choose to hide out in the same place their pets go to die?
  4. What does the Wool Pooh has to do with death?

Chew on This

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

Death is a necessary part of life, so Kenny has to experience it in order to grow up. Ultimately, learning about death is a good thing for him.

Death is too painful for young kids; it would be better if Kenny hadn't learned about death and could just go on being a kid like before.

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