I recently read The Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine. If you haven’t read this book or heard about it yet, let me be the one to recommend it to you. You won’t be disappointed. It’s not often that a book comes along that marries historical content with heartwarming story on such a deep level like The Lions of Little Rock. The story is set in the turbulent segregation fights of Little Rock in the 1950’s. We meet 12 year old Marlee who is introverted and nearly friendless. She finally finds a kindred spirit with a new student, Liz. Readers will suspect the truth long before innocent Marlee, that Liz has a secret. Marlee and Liz endure prejudice, bullying, and fight for their friendship.
I loved so many parts of this book. As an adult reader I was especially touched by the relationship between Marlee and her parents. It’s hard to put my finger on why Marlee and her parents were so special, but author Levine has created magic in my eyes. One part of the story has Marlee leaving a bible verse in her mother’s purse. This simple act was so inspiring, and not in a religious way, but rather in a way that shows the connection that mothers and daughters can share (there is also some teen angst, ‘my mom just doesn’t understand me’ parts too). The book also featured other family dynamics. Marlee’s own parents don’t always agree, another friend is being bullied by his older brother, and sisters who were once close mature and become more independent.
There are even more reasons that this book was one of my favorite recent reads. The main characters are smart, interesting, and real. The secondary characters are well developed, integral to the story, and interesting too. The setting is unique, relatable, and assessable to the reading age level. Overall the story is extremely well told, thought provoking, and IMPORTANT. Good historical fiction tells a story dependent upon a different time period, showing difference in culture and experiences, but at its best historical fiction teaches readers important lessons, changes reader’s ideas, and reflects a story so strongly that the reader can’t help but make applications to their own lives. Lions of Little Rock is that kind of book.
I am eager to see if other people liked Lions of Little Rock as much as I did. I’ve avoided reading many reviews, but now I will seek them. I also hope to see some buzz for Lions of Little Rock for book awards this year. I HIGHLY recommend this book to MG readers, teachers, parents, book lovers, people who grew up in the 50’s and remember the civil rights fight, and anyone who enjoys quality books.