From School Library JournalIn the only Newbery Honor book to make my list, the weighty issues and historical perspectives don't get in the way of a very funny family. Byron plays some awful tricks on his younger brother Kenny, but readers can't help but laugh at some of his less harmful teasing. He tells a convincing story to little sister Joey about how garbage trucks scoop up frozen Southern folks who don't dress warmly enough, and half-fools Kenny with his tall tale. While the boys supply many of the laughs, it's clear that they get their sense of humor from their dad. His gentle teasing and tongue-in-cheek exaggerations can be hilarious. Laughter and Tears Award: More than any other book on my list, the humor in The Watsons shifts to near tragedy and many thought-provoking developments. The serious stuff succeeds in part because readers grow so close to this family through the humor that comes earlier in the book.
From Booklist by Hazel Rochman
In a voice that's both smart and naive, strong and scared, fourth-grader Kenny Watson tells about his African American family in Flint, Michigan, in 1963. We get to know his strict, loving parents and his tough older brother, who gets into so much trouble his parents decide to take him back "home" to Birmingham, Alabama, where maybe his strong grandmother will teach him some sense. Several of the family stories are a bit self-conscious (we keep being told we're going to laugh as Dad puts on a show and acts the fool), but the relationships aren't idealized. Racism and the civil rights movement are like a soft rumble in the background, especially as the Watsons drive south. Then Kenny's cute little sister is in a Birmingham church when a bomb goes off. She escapes (Curtis doesn't exploit the horror), but we're with Kenny as he dreads that she's part of the rubble. In this compelling first novel, form and content are one: in the last few chapters, the affectionate situation comedy is suddenly transformed, and we see how racist terror can invade the shelter of home.