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The Lions of Little Rock Hardcover – Jan 5 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Jan. 5 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039925644X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399256448
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #595,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


 "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

About the Author

Kristin Levine, the author of ALA Best Book for Young Adults The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 107 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children March 21 2012
By Yana V. Rodgers - Published on
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Warmth, humor and heart - does it get any better? April 16 2012
By Maggie Knapp - Published on
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In the jungle, the mighty jungle... Jan. 30 2012
By Katie Crook - Published on
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. In the wake of the bravery of The Little Rock Nine, the town is divided between those who want segregation to remain and those who are pro-integration. Many families remain divided as well until the threat of violence realigns their good sense to see beyond skin color in order to realize the beginnings of equality (however small). While middle schools and elementary schools stayed open (and segregated), high school students were shut out of an education for the 1958-59 school year due to political bickering over the issue of integration. Many families sent children to live with relatives to continue schooling including, Marlee's sister, Judy.

Marlee's character is looking to build a better world not only for herself but for the people that she holds dear, those in her life who have taken the time to know her and stand by her. From them and the encouragement they give her, Marlee learns to stand on her own and to finally raise her voice (albeit productively). While some of the events seem far-fetched (ahem, a 12-year-old finding a sack of still-charged dynamite), Levine maintains with more of a writer's will than historical aplomb that "perhaps it could have happened." Anything could happen. Lucky for the reader, Levine stretches the confines of an historical reality to make way for appropriate fictional action. The friendship between Marlee and Liz feels comforting and real, the way a young friendship should be--someone to talk to, confide in and break the rules for (or with). Even though there was much social tumult in their young lives, one still gets the impression that Marlee and Liz have maintained most, if not all, of their innocence, curiosity and belief of the goodness that's still possible in this world. This is something that kids today need more of, but it seems as if it's taken away at an ever-increasingly earlier age or it's never really felt at all.

My real gripe with The Lions of Little Rock is the cover. The imagery doesn't give a potential reader much incentive to check-it-out, nor does the puke-yellow color add, well, much at all. The title itself is even a stretch for me. The lions, and even the zoo, do wind and weave into the storyline but that particular caveat seems more important to Levine than it ever will be to the reader (on the dedication page, Levine acknowledges her mother and thanks her "for telling [her] about the lions.") In the author's note, we also learn that Levine's mom grew up in Little Rock, presumably hearing lions. How close does one have to live to a zoo to hear the lions? I'm presuming pretty close, but Levine never makes it clear. So, would lions on the cover work? Maybe not. Should "Lions" in the title work? Maybe not, but it's catchy nonetheless. While I'm at it, I would love to see a map of Little Rock on the frontispiece (including fictional locations in the story) to bring the concept of "a town divided" to the forefront. To be sure, this is a want but I think it would resonate with young readers to incorporate an historical artifact to balance the fictional elements in the plot.

This is a great work of historical fiction. A perfect complement to black history month, or for readers who need a little incentive to stand up and stand proud in life.

Ages 10 & up.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Marlee can’t believe her luck to have a friend who is just like her in so many ways July 12 2014
By The DMS - Published on
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. I loved watching Marlee stand up for what she believes in, and she definitely tried to make the world a better place. It's an excellent book for people of all ages, and I think kids in fourth grade and up will especially relate to Marlee and Liz. The book makes history come alive, and it made me want to clap and cheer for all of the people who have broken and continue to break races barriers and help people see that we are all humans. I found myself nervous about some of the situations Marlee found herself in, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters when I finished the book. I was totally engrossed in this one because the characters are easy to relate to, and I felt like I knew them. I really like Marlee and think she has many qualities that make me want to be friends with her. Without a doubt, this is a story that will make you want to go out and change the world, and it will definitely make people want to be kinder! If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. This story will remind you how far we've come and how each step forward is a step in the right direction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic historical fiction read! March 27 2014
By Live Outside - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
It’s 1958 and there is a whole lot going on in Marlee’s life in Little Rock, Arkansas. For starters, twelve-year old Marlee doesn’t do much talking, at least out loud. In fact people make fun of her because of this issue. Starting middle school, Marlee knows she’s going to have some issues with the new teachers as they adjust to Marlee’s silence. Her home situation is difficult now, since the high school closed this year. The recent rules on integration that caused its closure, has caused major effects on Marlee’s family. From her parents conflicting views on integration, to her mother’s job at the high school, to having her sister not going to the local high, this closing has had a ripping effect upon the Nisbett household. Starting middle school, Marlee happens upon a new girl named Liz, who Marlee finds she likes a great deal except Liz talks a lot. Liz tries to help Marlee open up and speak even if it’s only a few words. Reading what these two girls do together to break the glue that held Marlee’s lips closed reminds me of the friendships I had when I was younger. Marlee and Liz, they have this connection to each other that brings a smile to your face as you read how they share the world with one another. The day of their school presentation, Liz doesn’t show up and Marlee has more than concern for her friend when she hears that Liz is never coming back. How could Liz lie to her and not let her know she was an African American? Would she ever be able to see Liz again? Liz finally helped her speak out and she was the only best friend Marlee ever had, she can’t just let her go.

The connection that Liz and Marlee had was amazing. Liz helped Marlee open up and those first couple words that Marlee said brought a smile to my face as I read them. Marlee kept a list in her head of all the people she actually spoke to as she was so proud of the accomplishments. Both in the amount of words she was speaking and in whom she was speaking to. Liz also needed help from Marlee and Marlee was able to assist Liz, which deepened their relationship and another great part of the story. They both had a lot to deal with being only twelve and having to handle integration. Peers and family feelings and opinions weighed heavily on their minds and hearts. Marlee loved things having to do with numbers so this girl had my heart, as I love numbers also. She loved reciting the prime numbers when things got difficult and she tried to get Liz to use multiplication for her coping mechanism but realized that Liz was a words person. Marlee found a way using words that Liz could rely on when she started to feel overwhelmed. They both found their voice when they found each other. Highly recommend this book.