Levine, Kristin, and Annie B. Ericsson. The lions of Little Rock. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2012. Print.
Audience: Ages 9-14, Grade 4-8
Summary: It’s 1958 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and twelve year old Marlee doesn’t talk – at least not to anyone outside her family. But then she meets Liz who is brave and stands up to the mean girls. When Liz is forced to leave school because she was a black girl passing as while, Marlee has to take on the community and danger in order to keep her best friend.
Strengths: While the historical context of this story makes it perfect for 5th grade curriculum integration, there is so much more here. The main character is a fully realized girl. Marlee shows courage and growth throughout the story, and the relationships she forms are amazing. The theme of having the courage to stand up for what is right resonates just as strongly for current times as it does in the historic setting. Levine doesn't sugarcoat the realities of integration, but she also draws people who are not just one-dimensional.
Weaknesses: There are some instances of discrimination and prejudice that could be upsetting to particularly sensitive readers. Some background knowledge of the time period would probably help to make the book most accessible for readers.
Uses: The historical elements of the book make it perfect for the TN 5th grade standards that have to do with segregation and civil rights, but it would also be a good read aloud for other grades that are studying black history. The characters are wonderfully drawn (CCSS ELA:RL.3 Grades K-6), and the story elements would be easily identifiable (CCSS ELA: RL.5 Grades 2-5).
· Goin’ Someplace Special – Patricia C. McKissack (A picture book about growing up in the segregated South.)
· A Friendship for Today – Patricia C. McKissack (A novel about desegregation in Missouri.)
· The Watsons Go to Birmingham – Christopher Paul Curtis (A Michigan family travels to Birmingham and gets caught up in a racially charged environment.)
· Through My Eyes – Ruby Bridges (memoir of Ruby Bridges about becoming the first black student at an elementary school in Louisiana)
· Ruby Bridges (movie) – Disney film about the segregation story of Ruby Bridges
NYT Editor’s Choice Award
Other: Starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal
Resources for Librarians & Teachers:
Reader’s Guide: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/images/yr/pdf/LionsLittleRock_ReaderComp.pdf