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The Lions of Little Rock Hardcover – January 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, as politicians rage for and against the struggle to integrate schools, Marlee, 13, is a math whiz but she has a personal problem with mutism—she’s terrified to say things aloud in public. Then she makes friends—and more importantly, talks—with Lizzie, the new girl in her middle school, who encourages Marlee to even do an oral presentation in class together. Then one day Lizzie is thrown out of school. It turns out that she is a light-skinned black passing for white, and the locals refuse to follow the federal integration order. (Several kids and rabid adults use the n-word.) Marlee and Lizzie meet secretly, until it becomes too dangerous, with threatening phone calls and the KKK always around. Marlee discovers dynamite in a classmate’s car, and yet still the police do nothing. Marlee’s first-person narrative brings home the standoffs with classmates, family, and officials, but what is most moving is that while most do not change, some do. Readers who want more about the history can start with the long final note and bibliography. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman


 "Creating a book that reads as though written in one effortless breath requires a rare talent...Readers will root for a painfully shy girl to discover the depths of her own courage and find hope in the notion that even in tumultuous times, standing up for the people you love can’t be wrong. Satisfying, gratifying, touching, weighty — this authentic piece of work has got soul." --The New York Times Book Review — The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039925644X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399256448
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Beginning the new school year in 1958 at Little Rock's West Side Junior High, Marlee wondered how long it would take for her teachers to figure out that she would not speak at school. Not a word, for Marlee did not speak out loud to anyone except her family members.

This situation turned on its head when Marlee befriended a new girl at school named Liz. Liz could somehow understand Marlee and even encourage her to give an oral presentation before the entire class. Surprisingly though, Liz stopped coming to school one day when word got out that she was a light-skinned African American trying to pass as white in an all-white junior high school.

Just a year after the "Little Rock Nine" had courageously integrated the high school, the elementary and junior high schools remained segregated and racial tensions had led to actual closings of the public high schools. Marlee now had a very good reason to find her voice and speak out so she could try to get her friend back.

This skillfully-crafted novel for young adults does an excellent job communicating what it was like to come of age in such a racially charged setting. Along the way the book covers important concepts in economics, especially the economics of education and racial discrimination in the provision of public services. Adding to the uniqueness of the book is its focus on Little Rock in the year after forced integration of the high schools, a year that garnered less coverage in the history books but one that encapsulated further noteworthy events related to integration and social cohesion.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Knapp on April 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is such a wonderful novel...I just hope it's not too quiet to attract the attention it deserves. Set in Little Rock when the "colored" people were trying to integrate, the story concerns Marlee (who I might today think has a touch of Asperger's)who is very shy and Liz, a new girl, who doesn't take guff from anyone. The girls become fast friends despite their different personalities. The story is beautifully written -- exciting enough but not overwrought, with a healthy dose of humor. I loved the complex characters that, as in real life, are not all good or all bad. There is enough going on to keep things exciting and the history of the time is realistically woven into the story. I particularly like Levine's strong female characters, and I highly recommend both THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK and Levine's earlier book THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD to any middle school readers looking for historical fiction with warmth, humor and heart.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Katie Crook on January 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes I think I'm too nice of a book reviewer (read: person). I am guilty-as-charged when finding the best in books (and people), even when they may be sub-par in many respects. I don't believe this to be the case here, though, as I review The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. Levine has built a solid character in twelve-year-old Marlee and the little town that could-not, Little Rock, Arkansas. It's 1958 and Little Rock is still rampant with segregation--even the slightest murmurs of integration are grounds for upheaval. Marlee's character doesn't seem so solid at first, at least socially--she has but one person outside of her family that she will talk to. It's not that Marlee can't talk, is diseased, or incensed with madness. She chooses not to talk. For one, she doesn't like her voice, but it's also clear from that start that she hasn't yet found her voice. Enter Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she was: boisterous, opinionated, confident. Instead Marlee chooses to recite prime numbers and times tables in her head rather than saying what's on her mind. No sooner does Liz's warmth and friendship encourage Marlee to come out of her shell, Liz vanishes from school. Rumor has it that Liz is really a colored girl who was trying to pass as white. Regardless of race, Marlee knows that she had found a true friend. Nothing, not even segregation laws and the threat of violence, can keep her from her friend.

Levine has blended a great story of friendship and bridging the gap between childhood and tween-dom with an historical period in America that deserves more attention. She focuses on the barriers to education that all families faced in Little Rock, regardless of race.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The DMS on July 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
It's only a year after Little Rock became an integrated school, and now the folks in Marlee’s town are putting up a fight to stay segregated. Marlee’s a bundle of nerves before school starts and she has to begin at the junior high. Although she has always been a wiz at math, she suffers from an extreme fear of public speaking and doesn’t talk in public, so no talking in class. Surprisingly, she hits it off with a new girl, Liz, and even starts chatting with her. Marlee can’t believe her luck to have a friend who is just like her in so many ways, but different in ways she admires. In her dreams she's as brave as Liz, and their friendship helps Marlee to shed some of her fears. Marlee’s world is turned upside down when Liz stops coming to school and the rumors swirl that she was light skinned and passing for white to attend their school. At first Marlee can’t believe it, but then she realizes she doesn’t care if Liz is black or white. All she really wants is her friend back, and she's willing to take whatever risks she needs to in order for that to happen. They meet at the zoo near the lions since it's public and they could easily be there at the same time. This allows them to continue their friendship without anyone knowing. What Marlee doesn’t realize is how dangerous their friendship could be, not just for themselves, but for their families. Is it worth the risk for the girls to continue their friendship? What will happen if they're found out by those in the town who support the KKK and segregation? What will Marlee learn about friendship and treating people fairly? You must read this book to find out how everything turns out and if their friendship lasts!

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine is a remarkable book about a fantastic girl who is braver than she knows.
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