The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine on Twitter and blogs, I had to move it up to the top of my TBR pile this weekend - I am so glad I did! This is one of the most powerful historical fiction books I have read this year. It takes place in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958 during the time when the schools were becoming integrated. The high schools in Little Rock closed their doors to avoid the integration and were not going to open their doors to education until the segregation could continue. During this segregated time, Marlee's middle school is open and she continues to face her own personal struggles of finding a true friend and speaking to others. Marlee has difficultly speaking to anyone other than her family and even has a hard time speaking to her mother.
When Marlee meets Liz, she finally understands what it feels like to have a true friend - someone who shares the same interests as you do, respects you, and likes you for who you are. Liz has a positive impact on Marlee's confidence and helps her face her fear of speaking to others. Marlee even gives a presentation at one point to her class which she would have never done before meeting Liz! Unfortunately, their friendship begins to tear apart when Liz doesn't come to school one day and is replaced with the rumor that she was really an African American passing as a white person. Their bond is so strong that they are willing to face danger to keep their friendship going, even if it risks their own safety or the safety of their families.
The Lions of Little Rock is a powerful read for students in 5th grade and up as either a read aloud, independent reading, or book club book during a historical fiction unit. Throughout the book, there are many issues the characters deal with: racism, segregation, friendship, power, family loyalty, and many more. It is clear to the reader that some children during this time were much more accepting of others than their parents were and had a different mindset. This book will no doubt spark many rich, deep conversations in classrooms about the time period, historical conflict, characters, and issues. In 5th grade, we have a Historical Fiction Book Club Unit and I know that I will purchase multiple copies of this book for book clubs to read or will read it aloud because it is a book that needs to be read, shared, and talked about.
Happy Reading! :)