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Name  __________________________              Date  _________________

Directions: Write an informative essay in which you compare and contrast how Kenny from “The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963” and Harry from “The Worse Birthday from Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets” demonstrate courage in the face of fear.  Be sure to cite evidence from both texts to support your ideas. (Hint: You will have to open both texts while completing the assignment below).

Informative Essay Title:  _________________________________

Introduction Paragraph



Main Idea

Kenny demonstrated courage in the face of fear by ______________________________________________________________.

Harry Potter also demonstrated courage in the face of fear by ______________________________________________________________.

Body Paragraph 1: How did Kenny Watson demonstrate courage in the face of fear? Use evidence from the novel.

(Type your response here. At least 5 sentences.)

Body Paragraph 2: How did Harry Potter demonstrate courage in the face of fear? Use evidence from the text.

(Type your response here. At least 5 sentences.)

Body Paragraph 3: How are the ways that Kenny and Harry Potter demonstrated courage in the face of fear alike and different? Explain. Use evidence from the text.

(Type your response here. At least 5 sentences.)


(Type your response here. At least 5 sentences.)

Once you fill out the organizer above, you should have a full informative essay of 5 paragraphs.

Once completed create a word document with final draft as well.




Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 1

This book has been optimized for viewing at a monitor setting of 1024 x 768 pixels.

Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 2



a novel by

Christopher Paul Curtis

Delacorte Press

Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 3

Published by Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Copyright © 1995 by Christopher Paul Curtis

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by

The trademark Delacorte Press® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Curtis, Christopher Paul.
The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 / Christopher Paul Curtis.

p. cm.

Summary:The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American
family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama

in the summer of 1963.

eISBN 0-385-72985-5


[1. Afro Americans—Fiction. 2. Family life—Fiction. 3. Prejudices—Fiction. 4.
Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 5. Flint (Mich.)—Fiction.] I.Title.

PZ7.C94137Wat 1995





Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 4

This book is dedicated to my parents, Dr. Herman and Leslie Lewis

Curtis, who have given their children both roots and wings and

encouraged us to soar; my sister, Cydney Eleanor Curtis, who has been

unfailingly supportive, kind and herself; and above all to my wife,

Kaysandra Anne Sookram Curtis, who has provided a warmth and

love that have allowed me to laugh, to grow and, most importantly, to


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The author wishes to extend his sincere thanks to the following: the

Avery Hopwood and Jules Hopwood Prize of the University of

Michigan, Ann Arbor, for much-appreciated recognition; the staff of

the Windsor Public Library, especially Terry Fisher, for providing a

stimulating and supportive atmosphere in which to write; Welwyn

Wilton Katz, for her valuable help;Wendy Lamb, whose skill as an edi-

tor is matched only by her patience; Joan Curtis Taylor, who forever

will be a powerful exemplar of strength and hope; Lynn Guest, whose

kindness and compassion are a restorative to a person’s faith in

humankind; and particularly to my dear friend Liz Ivette Torres

(Betty), who can’t possibly know how much her friendship, sugges-

tions and insights have meant.

Special thanks to my daughter, Cydney, who makes me feel like a

hero just for coming home from work, and to Steven, who is without

doubt the best first reader, critic and son any writer could ask for.

Finally, a salute to Stevland Morris of Saginaw, Michigan, who so

vividly and touchingly reminded me of what it felt like to be “sneakin’

out the back door to hang out with those hoodlum friends of mine.”

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In memory of

Addie Mae Collins

Born 4/18/49, died 9/15/63

Denise McNair

Born 11/17/51, died 9/15/63

Carole Robertson

Born 4/24/49, died 9/15/63

Cynthia Wesley

Born 4/30/49, died 9/15/63

the toll for one day in one city

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t was one of those super-duper-cold Saturdays. One of those days
that when you breathed out your breath kind of hung frozen in the
air like a hunk of smoke and you could walk along and look exactly
like a train blowing out big, fat, white puffs of smoke.

It was so cold that if you were stupid enough to go outside your
eyes would automatically blink a thousand times all by themselves,
probably so the juice inside of them wouldn’t freeze up. It was so cold
that if you spit, the slob would be an ice cube before it hit the ground.
It was about a zillion degrees below zero.

It was even cold inside our house. We put sweaters and hats and
scarves and three pairs of socks on and still were cold.The thermostat
was turned all the way up and the furnace was banging and sounding
like it was about to blow up but it still felt like Jack Frost had moved
in with us.

All of my family sat real close together on the couch under a blan-
ket. Dad said this would generate a little heat but he didn’t have to tell
us this, it seemed like the cold automatically made us want to get
together and huddle up. My little sister, Joetta, sat in the middle and all
you could see were her eyes because she had a scarf wrapped around
her head. I was next to her, and on the outside was my mother.

Momma was the only one who wasn’t born in Flint so the cold was
coldest to her. All you could see were her eyes too, and they were



1. And You Wonder Why We
Get Called the Weird Watsons

Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 1

shooting bad looks at Dad. She always blamed him for bringing her all
the way from Alabama to Michigan, a state she called a giant icebox.
Dad was bundled up on the other side of Joey, trying to look at any-
thing but Momma. Next to Dad, sitting with a little space between
them, was my older brother, Byron.

Byron had just turned thirteen so he was officially a teenage juve-
nile delinquent and didn’t think it was “cool” to touch anybody or let
anyone touch him, even if it meant he froze to death. Byron had
tucked the blanket between him and Dad down into the cushion of
the couch to make sure he couldn’t be touched.

Dad turned on the TV to try to make us forget how cold we were
but all that did was get him in trouble.There was a special news report
on Channel 12 telling about how bad the weather was and Dad
groaned when the guy said, “If you think it’s cold now, wait until
tonight, the temperature is expected to drop into record-low territo-
ry, possibly reaching the negative twenties! In fact, we won’t be seeing
anything above zero for the next four to five days!” He was smiling
when he said this but none of the Watson family thought it was funny.
We all looked over at Dad. He just shook his head and pulled the blan-
ket over his eyes.

Then the guy on TV said, “Here’s a little something we can use to
brighten our spirits and give us some hope for the future: The tem-
perature in Atlanta, Georgia, is forecast to reach. . .” Dad coughed real
loud and jumped off the couch to turn the TV off but we all heard the
weatherman say, “. . . the mid-seventies!” The guy might as well have
tied Dad to a tree and said, “Ready, aim, fire!”

Momma said. “That’s a hundred and fifty miles from home!”
“Wilona . . . ,” Dad said.
“I knew it,” Momma said. “I knew I should have listened to Moses

“Who?” I asked.
Dad said, “Oh Lord, not that sorry story.You’ve got to let me tell

about what happened with him.”
Momma said, “There’s not a whole lot to tell, just a story about a

young girl who made a bad choice. But if you do tell it, make sure you
get all the facts right.”

We all huddled as close as we could get because we knew Dad was


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 2

going to try to make us forget about being cold by cutting up. Me and
Joey started smiling right away, and Byron tried to look cool and

“Kids,” Dad said, “I almost wasn’t your father.You guys came real
close to having a clown for a daddy named Hambone Henderson. . . .”

“Daniel Watson, you stop right there. You’re the one who started
that ‘Hambone’ nonsense. Before you started that everyone called him
his Christian name, Moses. And he was a respectable boy too, he was-
n’t a clown at all.”

“But the name stuck, didn’t it? Hambone Henderson. Me and your
granddaddy called him that because the boy had a head shaped just
like a hambone, had more knots and bumps on his head than a
dinosaur. So as you guys sit here giving me these dirty looks because
it’s a little chilly outside ask yourselves if you’d rather be a little cool
or go through life being known as the Hambonettes.”

Me and Joey cracked up, Byron kind of chuckled and Momma put
her hand over her mouth. She did this whenever she was going to give
a smile because she had a great big gap between her front teeth. If
Momma thought something was funny, first you’d see her trying to
keep her lips together to hide the gap, then, if the smile got to be too
strong, you’d see the gap for a hot second before Momma’s hand
would come up to cover it, then she’d crack up too.

Laughing only encouraged Dad to cut up more, so when he saw
the whole family thinking he was funny he really started putting on a

He stood in front of the TV. “Yup, Hambone Henderson proposed
to your mother around the same time I did. Fought dirty too, told
your momma a pack of lies about me and when she didn’t believe
them he told her a pack of lies about Flint.”

Dad started talking Southern-style, imitating this Hambone guy.
“Wilona, I heard tell about the weather up that far north in Flint,
Mitch-again, heard it’s colder than inside a icebox. Seen a movie about
it, think it was made in Flint. Movie called Nanook of the North.Yup,
do believe for sure it was made in Flint. Uh-huh, Flint, Mitch-again.

“Folks there live in these things called igloos. According to what I
seen in this here movie most the folks in Flint is Chinese. Don’t
believe I seen nan one colored person in the whole dang city. You a


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 3

’Bama gal, don’t believe you’d be too happy living in no igloo. Ain’t
got nothing against ’em, but don’t believe you’d be too happy living
’mongst a whole slew of Chinese folks. Don’t believe you’d like the
food. Only thing them Chinese folks in that movie et was whales and
seals. Don’t believe you’d like no whale meat. Don’t taste a lick like
chicken. Don’t taste like pork at all.”

Momma pulled her hand away from her mouth. “Daniel Watson,
you are one lying man! Only thing you said that was true was that
being in Flint is like living in a igloo. I knew I should have listened to
Moses. Maybe these babies mighta been born with lumpy heads but
at least they’da had warm lumpy heads!

“You know Birmingham is a good place, and I don’t mean just the
weather either.The life is slower, the people are friendlier—”

“Oh yeah,” Dad interrupted,“they’re a laugh a minute down there.
Let’s see, where was that ‘Coloreds Only’ bathroom downtown?”

“Daniel, you know what I mean, things aren’t perfect but people
are more honest about the way they feel”—she took her mean eyes off
Dad and put them on Byron—“and folks there do know how to
respect their parents.”

Byron rolled his eyes like he didn’t care. All he did was tuck the
blanket farther into the couch’s cushion.

Dad didn’t like the direction the conversation was going so he
called the landlord for the hundredth time.The phone was still busy.

“That snake in the grass has got his phone off the hook. Well, it’s
going to be too cold to stay here tonight, let me call Cydney. She just
had that new furnace put in, maybe we can spend the night there.”
Aunt Cydney was kind of mean but her house was always warm so we
kept our fingers crossed that she was home.

Everyone, even Byron, cheered when Dad got Aunt Cydney and
she told us to hurry over before we froze to death.

Dad went out to try and get the Brown Bomber started. That was
what we called our car. It was a 1948 Plymouth that was dull brown
and real big, Byron said it was turd brown. Uncle Bud gave it to Dad
when it was thirteen years old and we’d had it for two years. Me and
Dad took real good care of it but some of the time it didn’t like to start
up in the winter.

After five minutes Dad came back in huffing and puffing and slap-


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 4

ping his arms across his chest.
“Well, it was touch and go for a while, but the Great Brown One

pulled through again!” Everyone cheered, but me and Byron quit
cheering and started frowning right away. By the way Dad smiled at
us we knew what was coming next. Dad pulled two ice scrapers out
of his pocket and said,“O.K., boys, let’s get out there and knock those
windows out.”

We moaned and groaned and put some more coats on and went
outside to scrape the car’s windows. I could tell by the way he was
pouting that Byron was going to try and get out of doing his share of
the work.

“I’m not going to do your part, Byron, you’d better do it and I’m
not playing either.”

“Shut up, punk.”
I went over to the Brown Bomber’s passenger side and started hack-

ing away at the scab of ice that was all over the windows. I finished
Momma’s window and took a break. Scraping ice off of windows
when it’s that cold can kill you!

I didn’t hear any sound coming from the other side of the car so I
yelled out, “I’m serious, Byron, I’m not doing that side too, and I’m
only going to do half the windshield, I don’t care what you do to me.”
The windshield on the Bomber wasn’t like the new 1963 cars, it had
a big bar running down the middle of it, dividing it in half.

“Shut your stupid mouth, I got something more important to do
right now.”

I peeked around the back of the car to see what By was up to.The
only thing he’d scraped off was the outside mirror and he was bend-
ing down to look at himself in it. He saw me and said, “You know
what, square? I must be adopted, there just ain’t no way two folks as
ugly as your momma and daddy coulda give birth to someone as sharp
as me!”

He was running his hands over his head like he was brushing his

I said,“Forget you,” and went back over to the other side of the car
to finish the back window. I had half of the ice off when I had to stop
again and catch my breath. I heard Byron mumble my name.

I said, “You think I’m stupid? It’s not going to work this time.” He


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 5

mumbled my name again. It sounded like his mouth was full of some-
thing. I knew this was a trick, I knew this was going to be How to
Survive a Blizzard, Part Two.

How to Survive a Blizzard, Part One had been last night when I
was outside playing in the snow and Byron and his running buddy,
Buphead, came walking by. Buphead has officially been a juvenile
delinquent even longer than Byron.

“Say, kid,” By had said, “you wanna learn somethin’ that might save
your stupid life one day?”

I should have known better, but I was bored and I think maybe the
cold weather was making my brain slow, so I said, “What’s that?”

“We gonna teach you how to survive a blizzard.”
Byron put his hands in front of his face and said, “This is the most

important thing to remember, O.K.?”
“Well, first we gotta show you what it feels like to be trapped in a

blizzard. You ready?” He whispered something to Buphead and they
both laughed.

“I’m ready.”
I should have known that the only reason Buphead and By would

want to play with me was to do something mean.
“O.K.,” By said, “first thing you gotta worry about is high winds.”
Byron and Buphead each grabbed one of my arms and one of my

legs and swung me between them going, “Wooo, blizzard warnings!
Blizzard warnings! Wooo! Take cover!”

Buphead counted to three and on the third swing they let me go
in the air. I landed headfirst in a snowbank.

But that was O.K. because I had on three coats, two sweaters, a T-
shirt, three pairs of pants and four socks along with a scarf, a hat and a
hood. These guys couldn’t have hurt me if they’d thrown me off the
Empire State Building!

After I climbed out of the snowbank they started laughing and so
did I.

“Cool, Baby Bruh,” By said,“you passed that part of the test with a
B-plus, what you think, Buphead?”

Buphead said, “Yeah, I’d give the little punk a A.”


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 6

They whispered some more and started laughing again.
“O.K.,” By said, “second thing you gotta learn is how to keep your

balance in a high wind. You gotta be good at this so you don’t get
blowed into no polar bear dens.”

They put me in between them and started making me spin round
and round, it seemed like they spun me for about half an hour.When
slob started flying out of my mouth they let me stop and I wobbled
around for a while before they pushed me back in the same snowbank.

When everything stopped going in circles I got up and we all
laughed again.

They whispered some more and then By said, “What you think,
Buphead? He kept his balance a good long time, I’m gonna give him
a A-minus.”

“I ain’t as hard a grader as you, I’ma give the little punk a double

“O.K., Kenny, now the last part of Surviving a Blizzard, you ready?”
“You passed the wind test and did real good on the balance test but

now we gotta see if you ready to graduate. You remember what we
told you was the most important part about survivin’?”

“O.K., here we go. Buphead, tell him ’bout the final exam.”
Buphead turned me around to look at him, putting my back to

Byron. “O.K., square,” he started, “I wanna make sure you ready for
this one, you done so good so far I wanna make sure you don’t blow
it at graduation time.You think you ready?”

I nodded, getting ready to be thrown in the snowbank real hard this
time. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to cry or anything, I made
up my mind that no matter how hard they threw me in that snow I
was going to get up laughing.

“O.K.,” Buphead said, “everything’s cool, you ’member what your
brother said about puttin’ your hands up?”

“Like this?” I covered my face with my gloves.
“Yeah, that’s it!” Buphead looked over my shoulder at Byron and

then said, “Wooo! High winds, blowing snow! Wooo! Look out!
Blizzard a-comin’! Death around the corner! Look out!”

Byron mumbled my name and I turned around to see why his voice


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 7

sounded so funny. As soon as I looked at him Byron blasted me in the
face with a mouthful of snow.

Man! It was hard to believe how much stuff By could put in his
mouth! Him and Buphead just about died laughing as I stood there
with snow and spit and ice dripping off of my face.

Byron caught his breath and said, “Aww, man, you flunked! You
done so good, then you go and flunk the Blowin’ Snow section of
How to Survive a Blizzard, you forgot to put your hands up! What you
say, Buphead, F?”

“Yeah, double F-minus!”
It was a good thing my face was numb from the cold already or I

might have froze to death. I was too embarrassed about getting tricked
to tell on them so I went in the house and watched TV.

So as me and By scraped the ice off the Brown Bomber I wasn’t
going to get fooled again. I kept on chopping ice off the back win-
dow and ignored By’s mumbling voice.

The next time I took a little rest Byron was still calling my name
but sounding like he had something in his mouth. He was saying,
“Keh-ee! Keh-ee! Hel’ . . . hel’ . . . !”When he started banging on the
door of the car I went to take a peek at what was going on.

By was leaned over the outside mirror, looking at something in it real
close. Big puffs of steam were coming out of the side of the mirror.

I picked up a big, hard chunk of ice to get ready for Byron’s trick.
“Keh-ee! Keh-ee! Hel’ me! Hel’ me! Go geh Momma! Go geh

Mom-ma! Huwwy uh!”
“I’m not playing, Byron! I’m not that stupid! You’d better start

doing your side of the car or I’ll tear you up with this iceball.”
He banged his hand against the car harder and started stomping his

feet. “Oh, please, Keh-ee! Hel’ me, go geh Mom-ma!”
I raised the ice chunk over my head. “I’m not playing, By, you bet-

ter get busy or I’m telling Dad.”
I moved closer and when I got right next to him I could see

boogers running out of his nose and tears running down his cheeks.
These weren’t tears from the cold either, these were big juicy crybaby
tears! I dropped my ice chunk.

“By! What’s wrong?”
“Hel’ me! Keh-ee! Go geh hel’!”


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 8

I moved closer. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Byron’s mouth was
frozen on the mirror! He was as stuck as a fly on flypaper!

I could have done a lot of stuff to him. If it had been me with my
lips stuck on something like this he’d have tortured me for a couple of
days before he got help. Not me, though, I nearly broke my neck try-
ing to get into the house to rescue Byron.

As soon as I ran through the front door Momma, Dad and Joey all
yelled, “Close that door!”

“Momma, quick! It’s By! He’s froze up outside!”
No one seemed too impressed.
I screamed, “Really! He’s froze to the car! Help! He’s crying!”
That shook them up.You could cut Byron’s head off and he prob-

ably wouldn’t cry.
“Kenneth Bernard Watson, what on earth are you talking about?”
“Momma, please hurry up!”
Momma, Dad and Joey threw on some extra coats and followed me

to the Brown Bomber.
The fly was still stuck and buzzing. “Oh, Mom-ma! Hel’ me! Geh

me offa ’ere!”
“Oh my Lord!” Momma screamed, and I thought she was going to

do one of those movie-style faints, she even put her hand over her
forehead and staggered back a little bit.

Joey, of course, started crying right along with Byron.
Dad was doing his best not to explode laughing. Big puffs of smoke

were coming out of his nose and mouth as he tried to squeeze his
laughs down. Finally he put his head on his arms and leaned against
the car’s hood and howled.

“Byron,” Momma said, gently wiping tears off his cheeks with the
end of her scarf,“it’s O.K., sweetheart, how’d this happen?” She sound-
ed like she was going to be crying in a minute herself.

Dad raised his head and said, “Why are you asking how it hap-
pened? Can’t you tell, Wilona? This little knucklehead was kissing his
reflection in the mirror and got his lips stuck!” Dad took a real deep
breath. “Is your tongue stuck too?”

“No! Quit teasin’, Da-ee! Hel’! Hel’!”
“Well, at least the boy hadn’t gotten too passionate with himself!”

Dad thought that was hilarious and put his head back on his arms.


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 9

Momma didn’t see anything funny. “Daniel Watson! What are we
gonna do? What do y’all do when this happens up he-uh?” Momma
started talking Southernstyle when she got worried. Instead of saying
“here” she said “he-uh” and instead of saying “you all” she said “y’all.”

Dad stopped laughing long enough to say, “Wilona, I’ve lived in
Flint all my life, thirty-five years, and I swear this is the first time I’ve
ever seen anyone with their lips frozen to a mirror. Honey, I don’t
know what to do, wait till he thaws out?”

“Pull him off, Dad,” I suggested. Byron went nuts! He started bang-
ing his hands on the Brown Bomber’s doors again and mumbling,
“No! No! Mom-ma, doe leh him!”

Joey blubbered out,“This is just like that horrible story Kenny read
me about that guy Nar-sissy who stared at himself so long he forgot
to eat and starved to death. Mommy, please save him!” She went over
and hugged her arms around stupid Byron’s waist.

Momma asked Dad, “What about hot water? Couldn’t we pour
enough hot water on the mirror so it would warm up and he could
get off?” She kept wiping tears off By’s cheeks and said, “Don’t you
worry, Baby, we gonna get you off of this.” But her voice was so shaky
and Southern that I wondered if we’d be driving around in the sum-
mer with a skeleton dangling from the outside mirror by its lips.

Dad said, “I don’t know, pouring water on him might be the worst
thing to do, but it might be our only chance. Why don’t you go get
some hot tap water and I’ll stay to wipe his cheeks.”

Joey told By, “Don’t worry, we’ll come right back.” She stood on
her tiptoes and gave By a kiss, then she and Momma ran inside. Dad
cracked up all over again.

“Well, lover boy, I guess this means no one can call you Hot Lips,
can they?”

Dad was killing himself.“Or the Last of the Red Hot Lovers either,
huh?” He tugged on Byron’s ear a little, pulling his face back.

By went nuts again. “Doe do dat! Mom-ma! Momma, hel’! Keh-
ee, go geh Mom-ma! Huwwy!”

“Hmm, I guess that’s not going to work, is it?”
Every time he wiped away the tears and the little mustache of

boogers on Byron’s lip Dad couldn’t help laughing, until a little river
of tears was coming out of his eyes too.


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 10

Dad tried to straighten his face out when Momma and Joey came
running back with a steaming glass of hot water, but the tears were still
running down his cheeks.

Momma tried to pour water on the mirror but her hands were
shaking so much, she was splashing it all over the place. Dad tried too,
but he couldn’t look at Byron without laughing and shaking.

That meant I had to do it.
I knew that if my lips were frozen on something and everybody was

shaking too much to pour water on them except for Byron he’d do
some real cruel stuff to me. He probably would have “accidentally”
splashed my eyes until they were frozen open or put water in my ears
until I couldn’t hear anything, but not me. I gently poured a little
stream of water over the mirror.

Dad was right! This was the worst thing we could do! The water
made a cracking sound and froze solid as soon as it touched the mir-
ror and By’s lips!

Maybe By’s mouth was frozen but his hands sure weren’t and he
popped me right in the forehead. Hard! I hate to say it but I started
crying too.

It’s no wonder the neighbors called us the Weird Watsons behind
our backs.There we were, all five of us standing around a car with the
temperature about a million degrees below zero and each and every
one of us crying!

“ ’top! ’top!” By yelled.
“Daniel Watson, what’re we gonna do?” Momma went nuts. “You

gotta get this boy to the hospital! My baby is gonna die!”
Dad tried to look serious real quick.
“Wilona, how far do you think I’d get driving down the street with

this little clown attached to the mirror? What am I supposed to do,
have him run beside the car all the way down to the emergency

Momma looked real close at By’s mouth, closed her eyes for a sec-
ond like she was praying and finally said,“Daniel, you get in there and
call the hospital and see what they say we should do. Joey and Kenny,
go with your daddy.”

Dad and Joey went crying into the house. I stayed by the Brown
Bomber. I figured Momma was clearing everybody out for something.


Watsons Birmingham 11/1/01 9:39 AM Page 11

Byron did too and looked at Momma in a real nervous way.
Momma put her scarf around Byron’s face and said, “Sweetheart,

you know we gotta do something. I’ma try to warm your face up a
little. Just relax.”

“O.K., Mom-ma.”
“You know I love you and wouldn’t do anything to hurt you,

right?” If Momma was trying to make Byron relax she wasn’t doing a
real good job at it. All this talk about love and not getting hurt was
making him real nervous.

Name: Class:

“Where Has That Boy Got to Now?” by Dennis D is licensed under
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“The Worst Birthday” from Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets

By J.K. Rowling

Joanne “Jo” Rowling, pen name J.K. Rowling, is a British novelist, screenwriter, and film producer best known
for creating the Harry Potter series. The title character, Harry Potter, is an orphan who attends a boarding
school to learn about magic. On his summer vacation, he is forced to live with his non-magical extended
family. As you read, take notes on how each character responds to magic.

Not for the first time, an argument had broken out
over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive. Mr.
Vernon Dursley had been woken in the early hours of
the morning by a loud, hooting noise from his
nephew Harry’s room.

“Third time this week!” he roared across the table. “If
you can’t control that owl, it’ll have to go!”

Harry tried, yet again, to explain. “She’s bored,” he
said. “She’s used to flying around outside. If I could
just let her out at night —”

“Do I look stupid?” snarled Uncle Vernon, a bit of fried
egg dangling from his bushy mustache. “I know what’ll
happen if that owl’s let out.”

He exchanged dark looks with his wife, Petunia.

Harry tried to argue back but his words were
drowned by a long, loud belch from the Dursleys’ son,

“I want more bacon.”

“There’s more in the frying pan, sweetums,” said Aunt
Petunia, turning misty eyes on her massive1 son. “We
must build you up while we’ve got the chance… I don’t like the sound of that school food…”

“Nonsense, Petunia, I never went hungry when I was at Smeltings,” said Uncle Vernon heartily. “Dudley gets
enough, don’t you, son?”



1. Massive (adjective) enormous


Dudley, who was so large his bottom drooped over either side of the kitchen chair, grinned and turned to

“Pass the frying pan.”

“You’ve forgotten the magic word,” said Harry irritably.

The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair
with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her
mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean —”

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,” thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN

“But I —”

“HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.

“I just —”


Harry stared from his purple-faced uncle to his pale aunt, who was trying to heave Dudley to his feet.

“All right,” said Harry, “all right…”

Uncle Vernon sat back down, breathing like a winded rhinoceros and watching Harry closely out of the corners
of his small, sharp eyes.

Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb
that might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy. As a matter of fact, he was as not
normal as it is possible to be.

Harry Potter was a wizard — a wizard fresh from his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
And if the Dursleys were unhappy to have him back for the holidays, it was nothing to how Harry felt.

He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. He missed the castle, with its secret
passageways and ghosts, his classes (though perhaps not Snape, the Potions master), the mail arriving by owl,
eating banquets in the Great Hall, sleeping in his four-poster bed in the tower dormitory, visiting the
gamekeeper, Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds, and, especially, Quidditch, the
most popular sport in the wizarding world (six tall goal posts, four flying balls, and fourteen players on






All Harry’s spellbooks, his wand, robes, cauldron, and top-of-the-line Nimbus Two Thousand broomstick had
been locked in a cupboard under the stairs by Uncle Vernon the instant Harry had come home. What did the
Dursleys care if Harry lost his place on the House Quidditch team because he hadn’t practiced all summer?
What was it to the Dursleys if Harry went back to school without any of his homework done? The Dursleys were
what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins), and as far as they were concerned,
having a wizard in the family was a matter of deepest shame. Uncle Vernon had even padlocked Harry’s owl,
Hedwig, inside her cage, to stop her from carrying messages to anyone in the wizarding world.

Harry looked nothing like the rest of the family. Uncle Vernon was large and neckless, with an enormous black
mustache; Aunt Petunia was horse-faced and bony; Dudley was blond, pink, and porky. Harry, on the other
hand, was small and skinny, with brilliant green eyes and jet-black hair that was always untidy. He wore round
glasses, and on his forehead was a thin, lightning-shaped scar.

It was this scar that made Harry so particularly unusual, even for a wizard. This scar was the only hint of Harry’s
very mysterious past, of the reason he had been left on the Dursleys’ doorstep eleven years before.

At the age of one year old, Harry had somehow survived a curse from the greatest Dark sorcerer of all time,
Lord Voldemort, whose name most witches and wizards still feared to speak. Harry’s parents had died in
Voldemort’s attack, but Harry had escaped with his lightning scar, and somehow — nobody understood why —
Voldemort’s powers had been destroyed the instant he had failed to kill Harry.

So Harry had been brought up by his dead mother’s sister and her husband. He had spent ten years with the
Dursleys, never understanding why he kept making odd things happen without meaning to, believing the
Dursleys’ story that he had got his scar in the car crash that had killed his parents.

And then, exactly a year ago, Hogwarts had written to Harry, and the whole story had come out. Harry had
taken up his place at wizard school, where he and his scar were famous… but now the school year was over,
and he was back with the Dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog that had rolled in
something smelly.

The Dursleys hadn’t even remembered that today happened to be Harry’s twelfth birthday. Of course, his hopes
hadn’t been high; they’d never given him a real present, let alone a cake — but to ignore it completely…

At that moment, Uncle Vernon cleared his throat importantly and said, “Now, as we all know, today is a very
important day.”

Harry looked up, hardly daring to believe it.

“This could well be the day I make the biggest deal of my career,” said Uncle Vernon.

Harry went back to his toast. Of course, he thought bitterly, Uncle Vernon was talking about the stupid dinner
party. He’d been talking of nothing else for two weeks. Some rich builder and his wife were coming to dinner
and Uncle Vernon was hoping to get a huge order from him (Uncle Vernon’s company made drills).

“I think we should run through the schedule one more time,” said Uncle Vernon. “We should all be in position at
eight o’clock. Petunia, you will be — ?”

“In the lounge,” said Aunt Petunia promptly, “waiting to welcome them graciously to our home.”




“Good, good. And Dudley?”

“I’ll be waiting to open the door.” Dudley put on a foul, simpering smile. “May I take your coats, Mr. and Mrs.

“They’ll love him!” cried Aunt Petunia rapturously.2

“Excellent, Dudley,” said Uncle Vernon. Then he rounded on Harry. “And you?”

“I’ll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” said Harry tonelessly.

“Exactly,” said Uncle Vernon nastily. “I will lead them into the lounge, introduce you, Petunia, and pour them
drinks. At eight-fifteen —”

“I’ll announce dinner,” said Aunt Petunia. “And, Dudley, you’ll say —”

“May I take you through to the dining room, Mrs. Mason?” said Dudley, offering his fat arm to an invisible

“My perfect little gentleman!” sniffed Aunt Petunia.

“And you?” said Uncle Vernon viciously to Harry.

“I’ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” said Harry dully.

“Precisely. Now, we should aim to get in a few good compliments at dinner. Petunia, any ideas?”

“Vernon tells me you’re a wonderful golfer, Mr. Mason… Do tell me where you bought your dress, Mrs. Mason… ”

“Perfect… Dudley?”

“How about — ‘We had to write an essay about our hero at school, Mr. Mason, and I wrote about you.’” This was
too much for both Aunt Petunia and Harry. Aunt Petunia burst into tears and hugged her son, while Harry
ducked under the table so they wouldn’t see him laughing.

“And you, boy?” Harry fought to keep his face straight as he emerged. “I’ll be in my room, making no noise and
pretending I’m not there,” he said.

“Too right, you will,” said Uncle Vernon forcefully. “The Masons don’t know anything about you and it’s going to
stay that way. When dinner’s over, you take Mrs. Mason back to the lounge for coffee, Petunia, and I’ll bring the
subject around to drills. With any luck, I’ll have the deal signed and sealed before the news at ten. We’ll be
shopping for a vacation home in Majorca3 this time tomorrow.”

Harry couldn’t feel too excited about this. He didn’t think the Dursleys would like him any better in Majorca than
they did on Privet Drive.





2. Rapturous (adjective) full of joy
3. an island off the coast of Spain and a popular vacation spot


“Right — I’m off into town to pick up the dinner jackets for Dudley and me. And you,” he snarled at Harry. “You
stay out of your aunt’s way while she’s cleaning.”

Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the
garden bench, and sang under his breath:

“Happy birthday to me… happy birthday to me…”

No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist. He gazed miserably into
the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch,
Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’t seem to be missing
him at all. Neither of them had written to him all summer, even though Ron had said he was going to ask Harry
to come and stay.

Countless times, Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig’s cage by magic and sending her to Ron and
Hermione with a letter, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Underage wizards weren’t allowed to use magic outside of
school. Harry hadn’t told the Dursleys this; he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into
dung beetles that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs with his wand and
broomstick. For the first couple of weeks back, Harry had enjoyed muttering nonsense words under his breath
and watching Dudley tearing out of the room as fast as his fat legs would carry him. But the long silence from
Ron and Hermione had made Harry feel so cut off from the magical world that even taunting Dudley had lost its
appeal — and now Ron and Hermione had forgotten his birthday.

What wouldn’t he give now for a message from Hogwarts? From any witch or wizard? He’d almost be glad of a
sight of his archenemy, Draco Malfoy, just to be sure it hadn’t all been a dream…

Not that his whole year at Hogwarts had been fun. At the very end of last term, Harry had come face-to-face
with none other than Lord Voldemort himself. Voldemort might be a ruin of his former self, but he was still
terrifying, still cunning,4 still determined to regain power. Harry had slipped through Voldemort’s clutches for a
second time, but it had been a narrow escape, and even now, weeks later, Harry kept waking in the night,
drenched in cold sweat, wondering where Voldemort was now, remembering his livid5 face, his wide, mad eyes

Harry suddenly sat bolt upright on the garden bench. He had been staring absent-mindedly into the hedge —
and the hedge was staring back. Two enormous green eyes had appeared among the leaves.

Harry jumped to his feet just as a jeering6 voice floated across the lawn.

“I know what day it is,” sang Dudley, waddling toward him.

The huge eyes blinked and vanished.

“What?” said Harry, not taking his eyes off the spot where they had been.

“I know what day it is,” Dudley repeated, coming right up to him.



4. Cunning (adjective) clever
5. Livid (adjective) furiously angry
6. Jeer (verb) to mock or taunt


“Well done,” said Harry. “So you’ve finally learned the days of the week.”

“Today’s your birthday,” sneered Dudley. “How come you haven’t got any cards? Haven’t you even got friends at
that freak place?”

“Better not let your mum hear you talking about my school,” said Harry coolly.

Dudley hitched up his trousers, which were slipping down his fat bottom.

“Why’re you staring at the hedge?” he said suspiciously.

“I’m trying to decide what would be the best spell to set it on fire,” said Harry.

Dudley stumbled backward at once, a look of panic on his fat face.

“You c-can’t — Dad told you you’re not to do m-magic — he said he’ll chuck you out of the house — and you
haven’t got anywhere else to go — you haven’t got any friends to take you —”

“Jiggery pokery!” said Harry in a fierce voice. “Hocus pocus — squiggly wiggly —”

“MUUUUUUM!” howled Dudley, tripping over his feet as he dashed back toward the house. “MUUUUM! He’s
doing you know what!”

Harry paid dearly for his moment of fun. As neither Dudley nor the hedge was in any way hurt, Aunt Petunia
knew he hadn’t really done magic, but he still had to duck as she aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy
frying pan. Then she gave him work to do, with the promise he wouldn’t eat again until he’d finished.

While Dudley lolled around watching and eating ice cream, Harry cleaned the windows, washed the car, mowed
the lawn, trimmed the flowerbeds, pruned and watered the roses, and repainted the garden bench. The sun
blazed overhead, burning the back of his neck. Harry knew he shouldn’t have risen to Dudley’s bait, but Dudley
had said the very thing Harry had been thinking himself… maybe he didn’t have any friends at Hogwarts…

Wish they could see famous Harry Potter now, he thought savagely as he spread manure on the flower beds, his
back aching, sweat running down his face.

It was half past seven in the evening when at last, exhausted, he heard Aunt Petunia calling him.

“Get in here! And walk on the newspaper!”

Harry moved gladly into the shade of the gleaming kitchen. On top of the fridge stood tonight’s pudding:7 a
huge mound of whipped cream and sugared violets. A loin of roast pork was sizzling in the oven.

“Eat quickly! The Masons will be here soon!” snapped Aunt Petunia, pointing to two slices of bread and a lump
of cheese on the kitchen table. She was already wearing a salmon-pink cocktail dress.

Harry washed his hands and bolted down his pitiful supper. The moment he had finished, Aunt Petunia
whisked away his plate. “Upstairs! Hurry!”





7. a British word for dessert


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Copyright © J.K. Rowling 1998

Unless otherwise noted, this content is licensed under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license

As he passed the door to the living room, Harry caught a glimpse of Uncle Vernon and Dudley in bow ties and
dinner jackets. He had only just reached the upstairs landing when the doorbell rang and Uncle Vernon’s
furious face appeared at the foot of the stairs.

“Remember, boy — one sound —”

Harry crossed to his bedroom on tiptoe, slipped inside, closed the door, and turned to collapse on his bed.

The trouble was, there was already someone sitting on it.



Text-Dependent Questions

Directions: For the following questions, choose the best answer or respond in complete sentences.

1. PART A: What is the central idea of the passage?

A. Harry feels alone because his family fears his powers, and he can’t be around
his friends where he feels comfortable expressing himself.

B. Harry completes chores for Petunia because he believes that being obedient is
important to supporting a strong and united family.

C. Harry behaves and decides not to cast any spells because he cannot use magic
outside of school and he is afraid the Dursleys will find out about his magical

D. Harry argues with Uncle Vernon because he believes his uncle’s hatred of
people who are different is unfair, and he wants his uncle to treat all people

2. PART B: What evidence from the text best supports the answer from Part A?

A. “Harry tried to argue back but his words were drowned by a long, loud belch
from the Dursleys’ son, Dudley.” (Paragraph 6)

B. “Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had
been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any moment, because Harry
Potter wasn’t a normal boy.” (Paragraph 23)

C. “Aunt Petunia knew he hadn’t really done magic, but he still had to duck as she
aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy frying pan.” (Paragraph 80)

D. “While Dudley lolled around watching and eating ice cream, Harry cleaned the
windows, washed the car, mowed the lawn, trimmed the flowerbeds, pruned
and watered the roses, and repainted the garden bench.” (Paragraph 81)

3. PART A: Which of the following best defines what Uncle Vernon means when he says
“abnormality” in Paragraph 19?

A. Harry’s evil nature
B. Harry’s special powers
C. Harry’s different appearance from the Dursleys
D. Harry’s teasing attitude

4. PART B: What quote from the text best supports this definition?

A. “‘HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!’ roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table
with his fist.” (Paragraph 17)

B. “Uncle Vernon sat back down…watching Harry closely out of the corners of his
small, sharp eyes.” (Paragraph 22)

C. “Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any
moment” (Paragraph 23)

D. “As a matter of fact, he was as not normal as it is possible to be. Harry Potter
was a wizard.” (Paragraphs 23-24)


5. PART A: How does Harry’s repetition of the phrase “I’ll be in my bedroom, making no noise
and pretending I’m not there” impact the tone of the passage?

A. It shows how much Harry loves sitting in his room all by himself so he can
practice magic.

B. It shows how much the Dursleys love Harry and respect his privacy.
C. It highlights the contrast between Harry’s love for quiet time and Dudley’s

hatred of it.
D. It highlights the contrast between the Dursley’s excitement for the dinner and

Harry’s loneliness.

6. PART B: Which TWO phrases from the text best support the answer to Part A?

A. “Dudley, who was so large his bottom drooped over either side of the kitchen
chair, grinned and turned to Harry.” (Paragraph 10)

B. “Uncle Vernon cleared his throat importantly and said, ‘Now, as we all know,
today is a very important day.’” (Paragraph 33)

C. “Harry fought to keep his face straight as he emerged” (Paragraph 54)
D. “He didn’t think the Dursleys would like him any better in Majorca than they did

on Privet Drive.” (Paragraph 56)
E. “he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist… He had never felt

so lonely.” (Paragraph 60)
F. “Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig’s cage by magic and sending

her to Ron and Hermione with a letter” (Paragraph 61)

7. Contrast the Dursleys’ perception of magic with Harry’s perception of magic in this passage.
Cite examples from the text to support your claim.


8. How does the point of view contribute to how the events are described in the passage?


Discussion Questions

Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to
share your original ideas in a class discussion.

1. The Dursleys treat Harry very cruelly in regards to his magic. How does fear drive their
actions? How does fear control us, and why might it be hard to be tolerant of others when

2. Harry must hide his magical powers from the Dursleys. Have you ever been in a situation
where you had to hide something about yourself? Is it better to hide your true self around
people who may not accept you or is it better to feel comfortable to be yourself?

3. Harry is treated differently from Dudley in the Dursley household. What message do you
think the author wants to convey about what is fair? Is it fair that Harry is punished when he
threatens Dudley with magic? Describe a time when you have been treated unfairly in your
own life.

4. Harry spends his summer surrounded by family, yet his magic isolates him. In the context
of the passage, what does it mean to feel alone?