Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review -- The Lions of Little Rock

My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book source:  Library copy
Genre:  Juvenile fiction (recommended for 10 and older)


Every once in awhile you read a book that hits too close to home. Or in my case, it is home.

In 1958, Gov. Faubus and the Little Rock school district closed all 4 high schools instead of following a court order to integrate, thus propelling the fight over desegregation into what was called The Lost Year.

In her book, The Lions of Little Rock, Kristin Levine tells a poignant story set in The Lost Year and of a little girl desperate for a friend, a community at war, and the fight to allow ALL children the right to an education.

Twelve year old Marlee, struggles to communicate. What she lacks in verbal skills she makes up in spectacular math ability. But what Marlee really wants is a friend. When Liz arrives at the lunch table and asks if she may eat with Marlee, it is a dream come true. What neither of them realizes is their friendship will put at risk their families, their friends, and their own lives.

It is hard for me to be objective with this book – my children go to the same schools as these characters, we are members of the same Zoo, they will graduate from Central High, we drive past the memorial honoring the Little Rock Nine on a daily basis. But with that objectivity (or lack thereof) noted: I thought this was a marvelous novel. The single most important thing to Marlee and Liz was their friendship. They did not care about the color of their skin or about court orders. All they wanted to do was play at the Zoo and do mathematical magic squares.

For parents wanting to discuss the events of 1957 (and 1958) and a broader discussion of integration and civil rights, this is the perfect book to read with your child(ren).

I will be suggesting this for our Mother/Daughter book club.

This novel will linger with me for a long time.

Highly recommended.


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