Monday, December 24, 2012


Most people are familiar with the Little Rock Nine, but far fewer know what happened in Little Rock, Arkansas, the year after that. Governor Faubus, determined to prevent integration of schools in his state, decreed that no high schools would open. And for a whole year they didn't. THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK, by Kristin Levine, tells the story of that year through the eyes of Marlee, a twelve-year-old girl.

Marlee is a shy, shy, shy. So shy that her older sister,  Judy, makes her promise that she will say five words on the first day of middle school. Marlee keeps her promise to her sister when Liz, a new girl in town, asks if she can sit with her in the cafeteria. Liz gradually coaxes Marlee out of her timidity by inviting her to work on a social studies presentation which they practice in front of the animals at the Little Rock Zoo.

The day of the presentation, Liz doesn't show up at school. Soon, the social studies teacher pulls Marlee out into the hall to tell her that Liz will not be returning. Liz, it seems, is a light-skinned black girl, pretending to be white, so that she can attend Marlee's all-white middle school. And in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, that just isn't done. Marlee, is determined to maintain the friendship that she and Liz have created. She doesn't realize that their friendship not only violates social mores of the time, but also places Liz, her family, and other members of their community in grave danger.

THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK is perfect for helping intermediate and middle school readers understand a really significant year during the early part of the Civil Rights movement. Levine has done a terrific job embedding a truckload of history within a really engaging story.

This would be an excellent January read aloud!


Linda B said...

Terrific book Carol. Happy Christmas!

Ramona said...

This book is on our You Choose the Next Newbery list sponsored by our county library. My students (6th grade) have loved reading this book and so did I!

Katie Dicesare said...

I read this book last summer and loved it. I just handed it to my sister to read and I am going to send her here for a quick glimpse into your thoughts about it. Thanks Carol