Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine
Book Description:
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.

This was a book I would never have picked up on my own, but boy am I glad that I read it! This book talks about the time after the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had no idea that the year after "The Little Rock Nine" faced such a hardship attending school that the town's government decided to actually close some of the schools so that they would not have to deal with the integration issue. It seems to be a part of that story that has hardly been told...

Levine tackles the story in an indirect and captivating way. The main character, Marlee, has an older sister that was attending the high school, but now is only offered correspondance courses for school since they shut hers down. Marlee goes to the middle school, which is still open, but has to deal with issues of her own. She is a shy, shy girl who hardly even speaks in school and it's not until she meets Liz that she learns to come out of her shell.

The problems? Well, it turns out that Liz is African-American, but her skin is so light that she was "passing" as white so that she could attend Marlee's school. When the truth comes out, Liz is expelled from the school and even worse, her family is threatened because they were "trying to be above their station." One of the boys that had tormented Marlee has an older brother that is making life both miserable and unsafe for the girls now. All Marlee wants to do is find a way to keep her best friend, but she's not sure how on earth she'll be able to do that!

This book touched my heart. It made me cry and it made me want to learn more about this time in Little Rock's history. It is a book definitely worth reading!

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