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Listening for Lions

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,962 ratings  ·  330 reviews
Historical fiction with a wicked twist.

Listening for Lions is a breathtaking story of tragedy, deception, and triumph against all odds. National Book Award–winning author Gloria Whelan sets this richly historical coming–of–age adventure in British East Africa in the year 1918.

This irresistible novel entangles an orphaned girl in a deceit filled plot. Young Rachel Sheridan
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by HarperCollins (first published July 26th 2005)
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingEragon by Christopher PaoliniLife As We Knew It by Susan Beth PfefferThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsUglies by Scott Westerfeld
Favorite Beehive Award Nominees
25th out of 54 books — 54 voters
Listening for Lions by Gloria WhelanThe Year We Sailed the Sun by Theresa NelsonHattie Big Sky by Kirby LarsonTree by Leaf by Cynthia VoigtFive Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
Middle Grade set in the 1910s
1st out of 68 books — 5 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I knew that I’d read Listening for Lions at some point, but I kept mixing the plot up with The Secret Garden, which I sort of think isn’t my fault since they both involve girls and plagues and foreign countries and going to live in large English manors.

So I figured it was time for a re-read.

Now I remember why I thought this was such a phenomenal book, although I can see why this might not be super popular with the young ‘uns, because it’s not as… adventurey… as the jacket blurb would lead you t
I absolutely loved the first two thirds of this book. It received the National Book Award, and I can see why. I kept thinking "this is a book I wish I could write!" Whelan's prose is lovely and her imagery is precise and perfect. I love the way she uses imagery to tie landscape and characters together--wonderful. The book is taut with suspense, the heroine engaging and morally sensitive, and her dilemma is real for a child. She tries so hard to do what is right! I also agree with a comment by my ...more
Brandi Rae
Rachel loves her life in Africa, where her father runs a missionary hospital and her mother runs a local school. Unlike other British citizens in East Africa, particularly Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard and their daughter Valerie, her family lives simply with the Kikuyu and the Masai tribes, respecting their traditions, holding church services and training them to work in the hospital.

Her peaceful life is shattered when both her parents, as well as Valerie Pritchard, die from an outbreak of influenza,
Mar 18, 2008 Kristine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: young-adult
I picked this up at the library - it's a nominee for the national book award. I loved the setting and the stories of Africa -- I loved how the author showed women can be strong, even at a young age. Really it was about loss and tragedy. It has really good lessons about service and greed, but I don't think it was preachy about them. I like all the references to Dickens -- because it was kind of Dickens in its own way.
I came across this book while shelving yesterday and remembered having read it a while back. But once again I was attracted to the picture on the cover. So I spent some enjoyable time rereading the story that is really a 3+. What I admire most about this book is the author's knowledge on many subjects and her intertextual references to many works of literature including Dickens and Jane Eyre. It's not hard to guess where Whelan got the idea for her tale of orphans whose plight is aided and hinde ...more
I really enjoyed this book, even though it has a few weaknesses. It is very similar to other stories that take place in England in the early 1900s, like The Secret Garden, A Little I enjoyed that aspect. The first two parts were great, the third part really needed more space to expand and tell the story and develop characters. I was interested in Rachel's journey through medical school and coming home to build the hospital. I felt that the book needed to be twice as long to provide ...more
4.5 stars. I randomly came across this a few weeks ago while at the library. If Frances Hodgson Burnett, Isak Dinesen, and Charles Dickens all got together and wrote a book, this would be the result. I was quickly drawn in to Rachel's story and stayed captivated all the way through. It's not a perfect book - my biggest complaint is that a lot of things were skimmed over, especially in the second half; I think it would have made a terrific thick life-story novel if it had been divided into sectio ...more
Martha Valasek
I was so intrigued with this story set right after WWI. Charming contrast between Kenya and England. I liked also because the main character was a missionary kid like me.
Kaylin Hoover
Feb 13, 2015 Kaylin Hoover rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Autumn Bloss
I thought this novel was very descriptive and detailed. It was about a girl named Rachael who lost her mother and father at the age of 10. She had to live with 2 people she hated because she did not want to go to an orphanage since her parents both were in an orphanage when they were little. So she lived with the people she disliked. The daughter of the people she disliked and her parents all died from influenza. I think the main character of the story is Rachael because she is the one telling u ...more
Jacque C
Gloria Whelan tells the story about an orphan girl named Rachel in her novel Listening for the Lions. Rachel is passing through a lot of pain, her parents dying, and her having to move in with her parents enemies, the Pritchards. The Pritchards are wealthy planters that think they're better than everybody else. Rachel thinks that they're taking care of her out of kindness but what she doesn't know is that they're using her to impersonate their daughter, Valerie, who died of Influenza. She is for ...more
I have gotten into Youth Fiction lately and my friend Kim who is a children's librarian recommended this one to me. Becuase of the age level it is a quick read.

I really loved this book. It is inspiring and makes you feel good to see this young girl struggling on her own but making good choices becuase she has been taught by good parents. Ive never been to Africa but have a couple of friends that have lived there so I can understand a little of the passion and love she feels for Africa.
by: Gloria Whelan
The book "LISTENING FOR LIONS" is about a girl named Rachel Sheridan who was born and raised in British East Africa, the daughter of British missionary parents who ran a hospital there. Africa is the only home Rachel has ever known, and she loves it. But everything changed in 1919, a disease called influenza epidemic arrives and kills her parents. Since Rachel's parents were orphans, Rachel has no family to turn to, and is caught up in plans of their wealthy n
Linda Lipko
This is a delightful tale of Rachel whose parents are missionaries in East Africa. When at outbreak of influenza occurs, both parents did, leaving Rachel an orphan. Shipped to England, she longs for the return to Africa.

Rachel is spirited and spunky. While there is nothing in depth about this tale, I enjoyed the simplicity and story line.
Listening for Lions was a sweet, simple story. Rachel is a compelling character, and her story reminded me a bit of Heidi and Little Princess. The book is partly set in Africa. I learned that Africa is a place of color, not the bleak landscape I always pictured it.
I don't want to say more, and ruin your discovery of this story.
I really enjoyed this YA book about missionaries' daughter 1919 in Africa. Her parents run a small hospital in Tumaini (Swahili for hope). Influenza took its toll in Africa, too, and eventually killed the ministering doctor/wife. The story starts after their funeral.
I loved this book and will read others by the same author.
Pat (Get Kids to Read) Tierney
Listening for Lions
by Gloria Whelan
Harper Trophy
Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan is a great book for fans of historical fictiono. Rachel lives with her parents at a missionary hospital in Africa in the early 1900's. After both her parents die of influenza Rachel is kidnapped by a rich couple determined to reclaim their inheritence. She is sent to live with the Grandfather of a girl who died of influenzna. Given instructions to impersonate the late girl so
Nov 13, 2008 Wendy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Wendy by: Dawn
Appealing heroine, marvelous evocation of place, interesting plot--until the end. The final chapters are so rushed that the story feels disappointingly truncated, as if the author ran out of time or had some artificial length limitation (it's already a rather thin book!).
Probably more like 4.5 stars. This book was actually really, really good. I loved it. (I stayed up extremely late just so I could finish it)

Definitely a good book to add to your to-read list
This book deserves to be called a classic. It has a slightly similar feel to the Secret Garden because it starts out in Africa and most of the book takes place in England. I haven't read this book in a while though, and really want to read it again. It has a little suspense and tragedy and hope. I remember when I first read it. I loved it so much I had my mom read it to me the second time I read it. The first chapter is a bit slow but after that it picks up.
It has won at least one award. I'll up
Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan was okay. It was pretty good writing, and the plot seemed interesting, but there were a lot of elements that didn’t really make any sense. When Rachel’s parents die, she really shows no grief or sadness. She seemed nice but some of her thoughts were unrealistic. When she’s sent to live with the greedy Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard and they force Rachel to impersonate their daughter, she worries about the most impractical things that would not ever cross the average ...more
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Emmet O'Neal Library- Children's Department
Gloria Whelan’s Listening for Lions is one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a while.
Whelan takes readers on an incredible journey in the tragic, yet heart-warming, coming- of-age story of a 13-year-old girl who is forced to make decisions that no child should ever have to consider.
Adding to an intriguing plot, are Whelan’s rich detailed descriptions of two very diverse cultures and countries. Set against the background of an impoverished African desert and a stuffy English aristocracy,
Our April book club pick. It's a youth book, and it had some great things going for it. I liked the first section and how much detail there was about Africa and the girl's time in Africa. However, I felt the subsequent sections were more of a summary of her life thereafter. You never got a lot of depth of character from anyone. It was mostly narration and very little dialogue. The third (last section) of the book covered something like 6 years, whereas the first section covered 2 weeks. The auth ...more
Nov 08, 2012 Annette rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Annette by: Dawn, Kristine
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
What I like most about this book is that it is so reminiscent of some of my favorite 19th Century Classic Literature. I was very much absorbed into the story and had a hard time tearing myself away. I so enjoyed learning about the African culture and I was sorry that the story ended so soon. When I finished reading the story, I was hungry for more. The author might have wanted to keep the book short so as not to loose her audience, but I think that a little more detail would've rounded out the s ...more
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Megan Franks
What a refreshing read!

The story follows Rachel, daughter of missionary parents who run a hospital in Africa. Her life is simple and fulfilling until her parents die in a influenza outbreak (this is historical fiction set in the early 1900s). Left with no family and the prospect of being sent back to the orphanage that her parents were raised in (of which they told horror stories), she instead finds herself being entangled in the elaborate scheme of her greedy neighbors to take on the identity
Jodi Z
This was a winner. It was a fun change to read an adventurous book with a strong girl character. The tidbits about Africa--wildlife, culture, plants, etc--added much novelty. We enjoyed looking up the places on the map and getting a feel for what it might be like to live there. Particularly given our family's interest in birds, the ornithologist grandfather character was another fun aspect.

The contrast between the two girls provided much material for discussion, including the idea of being conte
I thought this was very good, but I felt like it lost a bit of steam for the last fourth or third of the story (although I did find the ending to be very satisfying). I think I'd give it 3.5 stars (maybe 4?). The most interesting part to me was how the whole deception played out. There were instances when I wanted to yell at Rachel to just tell! But carrying it out as it did made the plot more interesting, and I found her motives completely believable. At times this book has almost a fairy tale ...more
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1) Genre: Historical Fiction

2) In Africa, a young girl, Rachel Sheridan, is left behind as her parents and much of her town is killed by the flu. Her neighbors, with hidden evil intentions, take her away from Africa to England. Rachel finds herself stuck in this spiteful scheme and struggles to find out her true identity and purpose in life.

3) Critique:

a) The theme of determination is so powerful throughout this book.

b) Without giving too much of the plot away, there are so many signs of dete
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Gloria Whelan is the best-selling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Friutlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square and its companion, The Impossible Journey; Once on this Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; Farewell to the Island; and Return to the Island. She lives with her husband, Joseph, in the woods ...more
More about Gloria Whelan...
Homeless Bird Angel on the Square (Angel on the Square, #1) Chu Ju's House Small Acts of Amazing Courage The Impossible Journey  (Angel on the Square, #2)

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“They were all brilliant. They wrote books and painted pictures, and if they ever stopped talking, which I was sure they would never do, they planned to change the world.” 7 likes
“I looked forward to making friends at school, but I had come late and friendships had already been formed. I couldn’t find my way into their world. They seemed to have a secret code I couldn’t decipher.” 5 likes
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