Saturday, April 21, 2012
hear the lions roar
Kristin Levine's THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK (Penguin 2012) explores some new territory in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Marlee and her older sister Judy are preparing for the start of a new school year. Marlee is apprehensive; she is painfully shy, and hates even being called on in class. Judy, though, is looking forward to high school, but her school will not open because the governor is ignoring orders to integrate the school. The Little Rock Nine are gone and Governor Faubus intends to keep the school closed to prevent anyone other than the white students from attending. Off goes Marlee, though, to junior high where she meets the new girl, Liz. Liz seems to understand Marlee's reluctance to draw attention to herself. She even teams up with Marlee for a project, one in which Marlee will have to present to the class. She has Marlee practice in front of the various animal cages at the zoo and even bestows a magic feather which will give Marlee the courage to speak up. And speaking up is something Marlee will have to do once Liz withdraws from the school beacuse someone discovered she was "passing" as white.
Levine chronicles some of the dark events of the 1950s on Arkansas through the eyes of Marlee and her family and friends. While exploring the rampant racism, Levine never loses focus on the story of Marlee and her family. This prevents the story from becoming didactic and, instead, creates a heartfelt story that will touch the hearts and minds of readers. Pair this with Melba Patillo Beal's WARRIORS DON'T CRY, the real life biography of one of the Little Rock Nine and with Christopher Paul Curtis' THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963, and Ellen Levine's FREEDOM'S CHILDREN. <201>