What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Lions of Little Rock is a fictional story about a meaningful friendship between two girls in late-1950s Little Rock, Ark. The novel is set against the backdrop of high school closings by local and state governments opposed to integrating Little Rock schools. Children and adults in the novel struggle to form their own opinions on the issue, and they grapple with how much to speak up in the face of real threats of being ostracized, losing a job, or being violently attacked. The book takes an unvarnished view of bigotry in the American South at that time, describing real events that could be frightening and confusing to modern kids. Providing background information about the Little Rock Nine and about the evolution of race relations in the United States will help middle-grade readers, especially, understand this book.
What's the story?
Marlee Nisbett is a painfully shy middle-schooler who can really use a friend. She is comfortable speaking only to her own family members, who love her as she is but encourage her to try to "say at least five words today." As the book begins, Marlee, a white girl, starts middle school right after Labor Day, when schools are normally scheduled to reopen, but her sister, Judy, is stuck at home; their local high school has been closed by state and local governments opposed to the integration of white schools. While the debate about reopening the high schools rages between adults and kids, Marlee finally makes a wonderful friend, Liz, who helps her find her voice. But then, when Liz seems to disappear one day, Marlee takes a hard look at the racial conflict in her community, and her newfound bravery inspires adults to face bigotry head-on.
Is it any good?
THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK is a poignant and age-appropriate book about race relations in the American South around 1958, when Arkansas schools were first integrated. The novel, written from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl who is painfully shy, maintains an intelligent but innocent point of view toward the racial prejudice that afflicted communities at that time. Readers will not only learn a lot about some significant events in the early civil rights movement, they also will really identify with Marlee and Liz's fight to remain friends and change grownups' attitudes. Marlee navigates social issues large and small with courage, and her story is meaningful and memorable.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about Marlee's relationship with Liz. Is Marlee right to disobey her parents?
Marlee is particularly close to her father, but she doesn't always get along with her mom. How do Marlee and her mother learn from each other as the novel progresses?
How does Marlee get the courage to speak?
Do you think Marlee and Liz will remain friends?