The 1957-58 school year in Little Rock, Arkansas was full of protests and insecurity as 9 African-American children (The Little Rock Nine) attended Central High School in an early attempt at integration. The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (Lexile: 630; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) tells the story of the year following those events. The school district closed the high schools during the 1958-59 school year to avoid having to integrate the African-American students into the "white" schools.
Twelve-year old Marlee starts school in the fall of 1958 with one friend, who was really a bit of a bully to her because Marlee didn't talk. Then she met Liz, a new girl who was smart, funny, and full of confidence. Liz sets out to teach Marlee how to speak up for herself, but little did Marlee know how important that skill was going to be for her in the upcoming year, as she faces the injustice and hate of the other people in her town--especially when they find out that Marlee's only friend is "Colored." And as Marlee has to learn to speak up, she also has to teach Liz how to keep quiet to keep herself safe. The Lions of Little Rock is a great tale of friendship, justice, standing up for what is right--no matter what happens--and, of course, a wonderful historical fiction novel about segregation of schools in the South. Anyone interested in the Civil Rights movements, especially segregation, should give this story a chance. (320 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.