Book Reviews

The Lions of Little Rock- Kristin Levine


“You see, to me, people are like things you drink. Some are like a pot of coffee, no cream, no sugar. They make me so nervous I start to tremble. Others calm me down enough that I can sort through the words in my head and find something to say.”(p.5) – Marlee

Twelve-year-old Liz, the new girl in school, is the first person other than Marlee’s family members that can coax her out of her shell. While Liz helps Marlee find her voice, Marlee helps Liz find her quiet. Liz and Marlee are kindred spirits and are devastated when they’re split up due to segregation laws in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1958. In fact, Liz was never supposed to attend Marlee’s all white school but passed as a white student until her secret was revealed. By “passing” as a white student, Liz was temporarily able to attend a better school with more opportunities. Even though Liz and Marlee’s parents forbid them to remain friends (do to the potential danger of black and white friendships at the time) they secretly meet at a rock quarry or at the zoo. One afternoon Marlee sneaks into a “colored” movie theater but can’t relax enough to enjoy the film. She wondered: “How had Liz ever concentrated at school? How had she done math problems and written essays when she was surrounded by people who might hurt her if they found out who she really was?” (p.110) Liz and Marlee’s friendship brings danger to themselves and their families, especially after they anger an unstable, racist teen.

By the end of the novel, Marlee has learned that: “Summing people up as a cola or a coffee wasn’t really fair. Most people were a whole refrigerator full of different drinks. Tying to force them into one cup or one glass meant I never really got to know them.” (p.272)- Marlee

I don’t read many middle grade books but really enjoyed The Lions of Little Rock. It’s a wonderful work of historical fiction.






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