Monday, October 15, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Lions of Little Rock

Today’s pick: The Lions of Little Rock  by Kristin Levine
G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2012

From the publisher:
Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958.

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

My take:
I got very absorbed in this story. I learned a lot -- about the perspectives and prejudices of the 1950’s, about segregation and history, and about people and their fears and compassion. But what I enjoyed most about this book was the friendship between Marlee and Liz. Both of them were courageous and strong characters. Remembering back to how shy I was in school, I was rooting for Marlee to find her voice and not be so quiet.

If I was writing any kind of historical fiction for children, I’d definitely return to this book because the author is so successful at weaving in the historical context with the typical middle grade issues of friendships and bullying or exclusion. It's also a great book to read to study character. The story is so completely from Marlee's perspective, I really cared about what was going to happen next.

Favourite quote:
“I think a friend is someone who helps you change for the better. And whether you see them once a day or once a year, if it’s a true friend, it doesn’t matter.”

Other info:
Kristin Levine is a mom and writer living in Alexandria, Virginia.

In an interview at BookPage, Kristin talks about writing about race as a white person: “At times, I worry I will say something stupid or unintentionally offensive. In the end, however, I decided that that was a risk I needed to take because being silent just wasn’t enough.”

Other books written by this author include:

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

For more, visit Kristin Levine’s website.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!


  1. I haven't read many historical MGs, except for the ones that are more like fairy tale retellings. This one sounds good. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds like such an interesting read! I am really looking forward to it. Thanks for the review!

  3. I hadn't heard of this one, so thanks for featuring it, Andrea.

    I agree: that quote about friendship is spot on!

  4. Love the quote. I've heard a lot about this book, but haven't read it yet. Funny, I never used to like reading historical fiction, but in the last few years I've read quite a bit of it and loved it.

  5. This sounds like one I would love! Thanks for sharing about it -- I hadn't heard of it.

  6. Oooo! I haven't heard of that one yet. Sounds like a perfect fit for my classroom - thanks!

  7. I'll be traveling near Little Rock this spring. Sounds like I have a book I need to read first. Thanks for the recommendation! :)

  8. The quote you shared is beautiful! I love that this is a book about friendship and that it includes history. I have marked this one down to read- as it has so many qualities I look for in a book. I enjoyed your review and am so glad to have heard about this book! Thanks!

    1. I'm glad to spread the word about this one. I really enjoyed it.


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