Review of the Week

Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock.  Fic.  Putnam, 2012. 300p. $16.99  978-0-399-25644-8        OUTSTANDING      GRADES 5-8

A tender and mutually beneficial but fragile friendship lies at the heart of this story. “Practically thirteen,” Marlee loves prime numbers and math and avoids talking nearly everywhere. New student Liz does not always know when to stop talking. She chooses to work on a junior high class project with Marlee, much to Marlee’s surprise, and gradually the two become friends, often meeting near the lions at the zoo. On the momentous day for presenting their report, Liz is absent and the teacher informs Marlee that she will not be returning to school. The setting is 1959 Little Rock, a year after integration, and the high school is closed. Well researched and flavored with period details, the story explores the effects of prejudice on the community, the schools, within families, and among friends, but never at the expense of the richly developed characters and deeply moving tale. Even the supporting cast is fully credible. An appended note explains some authorial decisions and provides book and film titles “for learning more.” Terrific history revealed through an equally terrific story.

Linda Perkins, Independent

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