By Kristin Levine
Puffin, January 2013
About the Book
As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: She’s brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white.
Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.
I talk a lot. Just not out loud where anyone can hear. At least I used to be that way. I’m no chatterbox now, but if you stop me on the street and ask me directions to the zoo, I’ll answer you. Probably. If you’re nice, I might even tell you a couple of different ways to get there.
I loved, loved, loved Kristin Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock. Since I had also LOVED The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, I knew to expect great things from her, and I was not disappointed. I’m not sure which of the two is my favorite favorite. I loved both books so much. All I can say is that I definitely want to reread them both!
I loved both Marlee and Liz. Marlee is a heroine that I found so easy to love. She’s so shy, so wonderfully smart but painfully shy. So shy that her family—who loves and supports her—challenges her (in a good way) to speak five or six words a day. In the beginning she’s so reliant on her older sister, but through the novel she becomes more confident and brave. But above all, she becomes more thoughtful. She takes time to think and consider, for the most part, what is right, what is true, over and above what is easy and what is comfortable.
Liz is a new girl who becomes Marlee’s very first true best friend, but their friendship will soon be tested in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the school year of 1958/1959.
I do enjoy historical fiction. I found the setting of this one to be so very fascinating. It is set one year after the Little Rock Nine, and readers learn about the year that public high schools were officially closed in order to avoid integration. It is simply a fascinating, compelling novel. I just couldn’t put it down.
I did love the characters, and not just the main characters. Readers get a chance to get to know all the people in Marlee’s life, her mother and father, her older sister and brother, a few teachers, even a Sunday School teacher, I believe, the family’s new maid, her classmates, her friends, those that bully her, etc. So many glimpses of people that felt so genuine.
I also LOVED the writing. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it from start to finish. So lovely, it just has a “just right” feel to it.
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