Listening for Lions
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Listening for Lions

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,802 ratings  ·  314 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...more
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 — 53 voters
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Best Children's Historical Fiction
253rd out of 479 books — 499 voters

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Community Reviews

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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...more
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,...more
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.
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
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...more
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.
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!).
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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,...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
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...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
This is a beautiful book, and after reading so many disapointing florida sun shine books I am proud of this one. It teaches a lesson and is on reading level. That impressed me.

Rachel's father is a missionary doctor stationed in africa. The mission payed for his school only because he agreed to serve in Africa. Her father does not regret this dicesion. Peacfully Rachel and her parents live in Africa. Rachel's family isn't like the other British whitemen living in the area, stopping to lis...more
Brittany Brown
Gloria Whelan bases all of the books she writes on places she has been or places she would like to go. In "Listening for Lions" it talks about a girl who grows up in Africa where her parents were missionaries. The main character is Rachael Sheridan she helps her father who is a doctor as well as the pastor a the little church there, she helps him in the hospital. The author Gloria Whelan has actually been to Africa and bases this book off of what all she found and saw. I would definitely recome...more
A charming story... reminds me of some of the shirley temple movies, where little shirley is charming, falls on hard times, has people wanting to take advantage of her, but her good character connects her with the right people, and all comes out right at the end...

Rachel lives in Africa in the early 1900's... with her missionary doctor & teacher parents (who had been raised in an orphanage, and as adults were trained and sent out by the orphanage that raised them to work in the mission)... S...more
Jul 24, 2013 Allison rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 5th Grad & Up
Recommended to Allison by: NBMS Summer Reading List 2013
This was a great traditional-style, "feel good", book. All the details about missionary life in Africa during WWI and life in England post-WWI for young women was great. Given that the progression of the storyline was fairly predictable, I think that is primarily because I am an adult who has read a lot of books. This would be a book I would seriously suggest for reluctant and/or slower readers, particularly females and/or nature lovers.

Given that dramatic twists and storyline digressions are be...more
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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.” 6 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.” 3 likes
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