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Student Pick of the Week: The Lions of Little Rock

LionsOfLittleRock-med-res“I talk a lot.  Just not out loud where anyone can hear.  At least I used to be that way.  I’m no chatterbox now, but if you stop me on the street and ask me directions to the zoo, I’ll answer you.  Probably.  If you’re nice, I might even tell you a couple of different ways to get there.  I guess I’ve learned it’s not enough to just think things.  You have to say them too.  Because all the words in the world won’t do much good if they’re just rattling around in your head.”

So begins Kristin Levine’s wonderful book, The Lions of Little Rock.   Sixth grade students, Taylore W.  and Taylor H., highly recommend The Lions of Little Rock by Kristine Levine to all their upper school friends.

Taylore created this book trailer in Animoto to share what made this book so special for her.

Taylor H. also created a book trailer for this great book.

Mrs. Carter’s Thoughts On The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock also made Mrs. Carter’s Favorite Reads of 2012 List.  She has this to say about The Lions of Little Rock:

Many people know the story of the Little Rock Nine, the nine brave students who first integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the 1957-1958 school year. It was a stressful year, with army and National Guard troops stationed at the school for the entire year.  The struggle for desegregation of Little Rock Schools did not end there, however.  As the 58-59 school year approached, Governor Orval Faubus ordered the closing of all four of Little Rock’s public high schools rather than move forward with desegregation.  This year became known as the Lost Year as the high schools remained closed for the entire school year.  It is this tense year that is the setting for The Lions of Little Rock. While the civil rights issues of Little Rock are central to the story, Levine’s treatment of these issues is not what makes this story so special.  The Lions of Little Rock is about so much more than the Civil Rights Movement.   It is about building relationships in families, schools, and communities.  It’s about finding the courage to be true to yourself even when you’re afraid.

Levine’s true power as a writer is revealed in the characters and the relationships she creates.  Marlee is super smart but incredibly quiet.  Her family encourages her to speak up and open herself up to making friends, but she finds this so much more difficult than her favorite subject of math.  Numbers are easy, people not so much, until Marlee meets Liz.  Liz is everything that Marlee is not, social and vivacious, making friends easily. Marlee and Liz soon discover that they have much in common, and their strengths complement each other nicely.  Marlee finally has a real friend who does not take advantage of her.  That is, she has a real friend at school, until Liz’s secret is discovered.

Marlee has learned from Liz, however, and there is no going back.  She’s learned that she has to speak up and become involved if anything is ever going to change. She takes a verse from 1 Peter as her mantra:

“But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”

1 Peter 3:14

Marlee’s courage to take a stand reminds me of another verse.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,

but set an example for the believers

in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

1 Timothy 4:1

Mrs. Carter highly recommends this beautifully written and highly powerful novel to readers in Grades 5 and up, even for those students who do not normally care for historical fiction.

Note: One instance of the “N” word in historical context and a few instances where normal pre-teen puberty are mentioned (in a totally appropriate and tasteful way)  may make it less appropriate for younger students, but The Lions of Little Rock would make a wonderful read aloud or “read with an adult” and discuss the book story.