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Listening for Lions Paperback – October 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006058176X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060581763
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8–Orphaned by the influenza epidemic in British East Africa in 1919, 13-year-old Rachel is sent by conniving neighbors to visit an elderly man in England, passing as their daughter–his granddaughter–to pave the way for their return and the inheritance of his estate. The daughter of a missionary doctor and his wife, Rachel has grown up connected to the African countryside and people. Terrified that to reveal her secret would hasten Grandfather Pritchard's death, and fearing life in an orphanage, she goes along with her new identity as Valerie Pritchard. But she cannot help but get involved with his love for the birds on his land, and she entertains him with stories about what is happening outside his sickroom and what kinds of things her friend Rachel saw in their African world. In the tradition of Frances Hodgson Burnett, this is a satisfying story of an intelligent but unassuming girl who wins the heart of an elderly man who is not such a fool as his wastrel son might think. Woven throughout are descriptions of the natural world and the people of what is now Kenya, as well as the surroundings of an early-20th-century English estate. Rachel's love for her rural African world is convincing, and readers will be gratified by the way she contrives to return and continue her parents' work. An old-fashioned and enjoyable read.–Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. In 1919, in British East Africa, 13-year-old Rachel loses her missionary parents during an influenza epidemic. When she turns to her English neighbors for help, the Pritchards ensnare her in a shocking, ill-intentioned scheme. Disowned by their rich family, they had planned to send their daughter, Valerie, to her grandfather's estate in England, where they hoped she would help to reinstate them in his will. But after Valerie dies of flu, the Pritchards conspire to send Rachel, whose red hair matches their daughter's. Whelan creates deliciously odious villains in the Pritchard parents, who, with shameless cunning, manipulate Rachel into agreeing to the deceit. Once in England, Rachel and the perilously ill grandfather develop a surprisingly strong, affectionate bond, although she continues the ruse, believing that "one more disappointment would be the end of the old man." In a straightforward, sympathetic voice, Rachel tells an involving, episodic story that follows her across continents and through life stages as she grapples with her dishonesty, grief for her lost parents and life in Africa, and looming questions about how to prepare for grown-up life at a time when few choices were allowed to women. Gentle, nostalgic, and fueled with old-fashioned girl power, this involving orphan story will please fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic The Secret Garden (1912) and Eva Ibbotson's The Star of Kazan (2004). Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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This book by Gloria Whelan definitely fills that void, and then some!
Sue Estell
There is a twist, which I won't reveal here, but if you like orphan stories with kindly grandfathers and exotic settings, run right out and read this book.
Maggie Knapp
It is a great story about a girl that has been throught great loss and managed to over come and give back.
T. Roe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dwight Blubaugh on August 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read LISTENING FOR LIONS, Gloria Whelan's 38th book, as a read-aloud to my fourth graders from the newly released galley of the book (I wrote this review on April 8, but Amazon wasn't taking reviews for it at that point). While I am not usually wild about books without much "action," my students and I were really hooked into this book, due to Whelan's character development and interplay. The book was (as many of Whelan's books are) great at illustrating for students the use of symbolism in writing (see also Whelan's HOMELESS BIRD and MIRANDA'S LAST STAND, among others, for examples of symbolism that students can grasp). At the end of the book, my students even broke into spontaneous applause!

While some of Whelan's recent books (i.e., CHU JU'S HOUSE and ST. PETERSBURG #3 / BURYING THE SUN) were starting to sound the same, LISTENING FOR LIONS seemed much fresher in comparison. Nevertheless, many of the same story elements are here as in Whelan's other recent novels:

A strong heroine in an international setting loses her loving family and goes on a long, harrowing journey. At some point, she falls under the control of a villainous character (or duo) who tries to make her believe they are looking out for her best interests (out of pity) while they are actually taking advantage of her and her situation for their own gain while they belittle her and keep her down. Eventually she breaks free of their domination, stands on her own, and makes new bonds with new friends / family who truly care about her, and gains the means to provide for herself with a bright future.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
. . . and young readers will be eager to discover how a 13 year old was influenced by lions four generations ago. Rachel grew up in British East Africa (today's Kenya), daughter of missionaries. Her father made the bricks that formed his hospital, an under-funded mission where he also 'filled the pulpit' on Sundays. Her mother taught the Masai and Kikuyu natives, and they all learned from each other.

The Africa in which Rachel Sheridan was born was filled with light and the wild beauty of the grasslands. The lessons of life she absorbed were starkly different from those learned today.

During the post WW I year of 1919, the scourge of influenza still circled the Earth, and millions of people became victims. Rachel was orphaned, and became the prey of a British couple whose daughter had died. They swiftly schemed to turn Rachel into Valerie Pritchard who could then be sent back to England to work her way into the grandfather's good graces. Mr. & Mrs. P. lost no time in making that happen, leaving Rachel no time to grieve. Rachel, now Valerie, leaves behind the only home she has known and the faithful, sensitive family servant, Kanoro. She will remember the lessons of the lions: gathering strength for the time it will be needed, patience and perseverance.

Author Gloria Whelan paints landscapes to entice young readers: the exotic animals of East Africa, the abundant flora and birds there & in England. Whalen draws from Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne, the 1789 classic revered by all nature lovers, and from a contemporary source about birds of Kenya. The birds have their own colorful place in this story so greatly enriched by the author's research.

This is no tame story.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Rachel Sheridan was born and raised in British East Africa, the daughter of British missionary parents who ran a hospital there. Africa is the only home Rachel has ever known, and she loves it. But everything changes in 1919, when Rachel is thirteen. An influenza epidemic arrives and takes the lives of her parents. Because her parents were orphans, Rachel has no family to turn to, and is caught up in the devious plans of their wealthy neighbors, the Pritchards.

The Pritchards lost their daughter Valerie, who was Rachel's age, in the epidemic. Valerie was about to leave to visit her grandfather in England, and the Pritchards force Rachel to impersonate Valerie and take her place. They hope Rachel will win the grandfather's heart and persuade him to leave his estate and money to the Pritchards. Rachel is devastated to leave her beloved Africa and travel to cold, lonely England. She finds herself coming to care for her "Grandfather," but hates living a lie, and fears the Pritchards will someday follow her to England. At the same time, she is determined to find a way to return to Africa and reopen her parents' hospital.

Listening for Lions is another excellent historical novel by Gloria Whelan, who is one of my favorite authors. Rachel was a very likable and determined character, and I loved the unique storyline and historical setting -- the author brought the African and British settings to life. I recommend this book to all readers who enjoyed previous books by Gloria Whelan or who love historical fiction.
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