One of the great things about collaborating over the creation of a summer reading list is that I get to take another look at a book I had originally passed over. Such is the case with The Lions of Little Rock. I had first seen the strong review of this book months ago but felt a sense of morality fatigue that made me think, "Another Civil Rights era book that pits brave, high-minded progressives against racist thuggish segregationists." Boy, was I wrong. Seeing it on the 2013 DMS summer reading list meant that I would have to read it quickly so I could book talk it soon. I took it on a road trip last weekend and, after the first few chapters, literally couldn't put it down!
Marlee is a math-loving thirteen-year-old white girl with problem speaking up. She meets a new girl in middle school, Liz, who also seems to be an outsider but who is brash, quick-witted and funny. They form a deep friendship that comes to an abrupt halt with Liz is pulled out of school for being a black girl "passing" as white in segregated Little Rock, Arkansas.
As the plot thickens, the reality of segregation, racial tension, mistrust and parental fears puts a huge burden on their friendship but they will not be divided.
I bit my fingernails down to the quick as the threat of violence and danger slowly built. The book shows beautifully how personal contact across racial and generational barriers can create social change.
I'm so grateful to whoever put this book on the list!