Reviews for Lions of Little Rock

AudioFile Reviews 2012 April
Kristin Levine paints Little Rock, Arkansas, through the eyes of 11-year-old Marlee Nisbitt, a white student who is in middle school the year after the renowned integration of Central High School. As the new school year unfolds, Marlee grapples with holding onto a new friend; missing her sister, who has been sent away for her high school education; and trying to understand the strong feelings of her parents and the citizens of Little Rock concerning integration. Julia Whelan gives an even-voiced and nonjudgmental narration. As Marlee, her voice is questioning, confident, and, at times, full of the foolhardiness of youth; as Marlee's new friend, Liz, she sounds subtly yet consistently determined. Whelan also provides steely voices for the bullying Dalton brothers and a tight voice for Marlee's anxious father. An interview with the author expands on the time period and her reasons for choosing the year after the integration of Central High for her novel. A.R. (c) AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

School Library Journal Reviews 2012 May

Gr 5-8--In 1958, a year after the Little Rock Nine made national news by attending Central School, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the city's public high schools closed rather than permit integration to continue. Kristin Levine's well-researched, detail-packed historical novel (Putnam, 2012) reveals the events of that "lost year" as seen through the eyes of Marlee Nisbett. The 12-year-old rarely speaks to anyone outside her close family, and she's so shy that she eats a packed lunch simply to avoid having to tell the lunch ladies what she wants. On her first day at West Side Junior High, Marlee meets Liz, a new student. Liz is bold and outspoken, and she takes on the task of getting Marlee to talk in front of the class so they can give a presentation together. But Liz is absent on the day of the presentation, and the teacher tells Marlee that her friend will not be returning to school. Rumors begin swirling that Liz is a black girl passing for white. Determined to hold on to her new friendship, Marlee contrives ways to see Liz. Before long, their families' concerns about the girls' safety if they are seen together are proved warranted. Marlee discovers that she is strong enough to overcome her fears, and that if she wants things to change, she is going to have to speak up. Julia Whelan brings Marlee to life along with a range of secondary characters. The chatty first-person narration works well in the audio format. The author's note and suggestions for further reading are included at the end. A compelling look at a little-known but important year in our country's history.--Beth Gallego, Panorama City Branch, Los Angeles Public Library, CA

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