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The Lions of Little Rock

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  17,700 ratings  ·  2,083 reviews
Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - sp
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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Danielle Jose It's an inspirational book that talks about the most controversial topics that were present during 1958. Mainly following a little girl called Marlee,…moreIt's an inspirational book that talks about the most controversial topics that were present during 1958. Mainly following a little girl called Marlee, the reader gets to see segregation at it's strongest while seeing two young girls overcome this obstacle and soon become best friends. I found it an amazing read and is based on real life accounts. The author went through various accounts to get her information for writing this piece so I would gladly encourage you to read it!(less)

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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  17,700 ratings  ·  2,083 reviews

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We listen for so long in our lives, until one day
We push back our chairs and stand to speak.

--Alberto Ríos

Marlee's a junior high student in Little Rock, Arkansas who is too timid to talk. No one knows why, but she has only ever spoken to her immediate family and her bossy friend, Sally. When it comes to voicing her opinion, giving an oral report, or standing up for herself, we hear only silence.

Liz is the new girl at school and she's sassy and pretty enough to be causing a stir in the way that o
Required Summer Reading = Unhappy Tween Boy


My poor boy. Apparently, the school is ruining his summer! Did you know they are intentionally STEALING his vacation time away from him?? Oh, the drama...

Post-meltdown, I went in my closet and had a little laugh, composed myself, and then sat down and made a plan. I've always made an effort to read along with my boy and summertime is no exception. So we went on a book hunt (with a frappuccino stop of course) and printed out all the assignments the schoo
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a really powerful piece of historical fiction based on some real events. The year is 1958, the setting is Little Rock, Arkansas. The public high schools are shut down to prevent further integration and the conflicts that ensued. The main character, Marlee, and her friend Liz are the kind of characters that really get into your heart. They are such normal girls, wanting friendship & struggling to grow up, but they also have such unusual courage and perception. The author makes you care so ...more
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
Normally I go to the library with a plan. However sometimes, when I'm doing a lot of driving for work, I just dash in and grab a book quickly. Normally I have pretty low expectations for these books. Something has caught my eye, the description or the cover-art, but I have no idea what to expect.

The Lions of Little Rock is a book I just happened to encounter. It's set in 1958 Little Rock. Not tumultuous 1957, known for the Little Rock 9 but 1958. I've always enjoyed history classes but I had no
Kady Mac
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Teaser: Marlee is nearly 13 years old and that means it is high time for her to get over her fear of... well, fear of almost everything, actually. A quiet girl, who greatly prefers math and numbers to words and people, Marlee lives her life categorizing people as what type of drink they'd be and following around the same Queen Bee bossy and popular girls that she's known forever. When the school year starts and Marlee meets outgoing new girl Liz (warm milk with a dash of cinnamon), she think ...more
Barb Middleton
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel is like an exploding bottle of Mountain Dew that showers everyone with emotion, fear, friendship, and hope. Thirteen-year-old Marlee chooses not to talk out loud. She'll confide with her sister and talk with her family or Sally, her friend from kindergarten, but it is not much. She's no chatterbox, that's for sure, nor is she a selective mute. She talks in her head and deals with stress by reciting the times tables or prime numbers. She usually describes people in her head as types of ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult-lit
3.5 stars. The Lions of little Rock is an interesting case of a Young Adult book doing some things better than an acknowledged classic even though it's still obviously not in the same league. Set in 1958 in Little Rock, Arkansas and narrated from the point of view of Marlee, a 13-year-old girl whom many townspeople think is mute (but is really just intensely shy), the book focuses on the time the local schools closed to prevent the integration of white and African-American students. It isn't as ...more
Joyce Yattoni
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed listening to this HF narrative this past busy and hectic week. I was able to snatch time as I was getting ready for school and car rides. The story takes place in 1958 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The year after The Little Rock Nine were integrated into Central HS. I learned that in the subsequent year many school boards refused to integrate their schools and some high schools did not open that year for the entire school year. As a result, many families sent their children off to relative ...more
Jenna Buss
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very heartwarming story about two white girls, Liz and Marlee. Or at least, Marlee thought Liz was white.
Set in 1958, this book really brings to life the hardships of being black during this time period. I really enjoyed how Marlee was determined to still be friends with Liz, even though she was black.
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It’s 1958 and there is a whole lot going on in Marlee’s life in Little Rock, Arkansas. For starters, twelve-year old Marlee doesn’t do much talking, at least out loud. In fact people make fun of her because of this issue. Starting middle school, Marlee knows she’s going to have some issues with the new teachers as they adjust to Marlee’s silence. Her home situation is difficult now, since the high school closed this year. The recent rules on integration that caused its closure, has caused major ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I fear my experience of this book suffered, because I'd just finished The Only and One Ivan.

I liked it. A lot. But I didn't love it.

I thought the history was well handled, the characters pretty real in most ways. I liked the friendship at the center of the book. And I liked that we got to see a full cast of characters, therefore a range of reactions to integration.

But the prose wasn't that special, and the ways in which the book tried to do "more" felt forced to me. The conceit of a kid who does
Katie Clark
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An unflinching look at racism in Little Rock in 1958 all through the eyes of 12 year old Marlee who is becoming increasingly aware that the culture of white and black she's always known isn't right. Not someone who makes friends easily, mostly because she doesn't speak to anyone outside her family, Marlee finally finds a kindred soul in Liz. When Liz doesn't come to school the day of their big class presentation, Marlee is told that Liz wasn't who she had seemed. I enjoyed seeing this background ...more
Well-researched historical fiction wrapped in a great friendship story. I loved Marlee and Liz.
Dee Dee G
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Good from start to finish.
Margo Tanenbaum
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Some books introduce you to a really special character. Kristin Levine has done that with the protagonist of her new novel, The Lions of Little Rock, twelve-year old Marlee. Marlee is a brilliant math student, who dreams of becoming a rocket scientist (although she wonders if it's only boys who can have careers in math). But at school, Marlee is painfully shy, and is so nervous she's scared of saying anything in class. Not surprisingly, it's difficult for her to make friends. It's 1958 in Little ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved Kristin Levine's The Lions of Little Rock. Since I had also LOVED The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, I knew to expect great things from her, and I was not disappointed. I'm not sure which of the two is my favorite, favorite. I loved both books so much. All I can say is that I definitely want to reread them both!

I LOVED both Marlee and Liz. Marlee is a heroine that I found so easy to love. She's so shy, so wonderfully smart but painfully shy. So shy that her family--who loves an
Megan Kodweis
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this book! I couldn't put it down, in fact, I read the entire book in one sitting. The main character, a 13 year old girl named Marlee, is an inspiration to people of all ages. This historical fiction novel is based in the year 1958 in Little Rock, AR. Little Rock was being watching by the entire nation in 1957 with the first integration of schools. Kristin Levine based her story on the year following school integration and the issues that Little Rock faced.

We follow the
I liked the book. We don't like to face the reality that narrow-minded racist attitudes are held by perfectly normal people. Klan members were well standing members of society. The South was not populated by monsters, but by normal people who did horrible things. The Lions of Little Rock makes us face that reality. And it goes even further than that by having Marlee's mom be a bit racist. She's not shouting racial epithets or anything like that, but she's not comfortable with her daughters going ...more
Mary Ann
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Historical fiction at its best. This account gives us new information about the aftermath of the well-known Little Rock Nine, as seen through the eyes of good people of Little Rock, Arkansas. After the turmoil of the year when the Little Rock Nine integrated the high school, the school board and mayor of Little Rock closed the schools. This power play was supposed to show that citizens would not allow their schools to be integrated and controlled by the federal government. But several brave citi ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Set in 1958 in Little Rock, Marlee, a shy girl who doesn't like to talk learns the value of friendship in the face of prejudice. Courageous and lovable, Marlee is a wonderful heroine. A great book to add to the juvenile historical fiction cannon!
An excellent historical fiction depicting segregation in a relatable way to a younger crowd. My 11 year old was really engaged while I read this to him.
Susan Ballard
This is a heavy topic for a middle school book, but I applaud Kristin Levine for not shying away from the truth of the ugliness of the events that took place in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. If you are unfamiliar, it was then that nine black students were integrated into Central High School. They endured so much harassment and abuse that the 101st Airborne Division was called in to help keep the peace.

With the true account of segregation vs integration in the schools as its back drop, this sto
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great historical fiction for tweens and teens that takes place in Little Rock, Arkansas during the Civil Rights era in the late 1950's. I had no expectations before reading it and I was pleasantly surprised!
Mari Bianco
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this story—the historical context of Little Rock, Arkansas set the stage for a perfect introduction to the Civil Rights Movement for my ten-year-old boys. This book prompted important—and difficult—discussions in our family, some I should have addressed years ago, but I’m glad Marlee’s experiences candidly and poignantly helped build the empathy that all humans need when dealing with racism. I adored Marlee’s character and her OCD tendency to count in only prime numbers; ...more
Olivia Tiseth
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have come to love historical fiction novels because of books like this. The author wrote this with deep emotion, you can feel Marlees frustration and pain. This book not only delves into the past but brings you back to reality. It teaches you about fairness, equality, and true friendship. It shows that no matter who are, what skin color you have, what gender you are, what you like, we are all one. As Dumbledore said, "We may speak in different tounges our hearts beat as one." This book shows r ...more
Jaina Rose
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: blogged
I wavered for a few minutes on this one, it's really a strong 3.5 - just not quite strong enough to warrant a 4.

When I'm out somewhere new, I find myself shrinking inward. I have to clear my throat before I talk and when it does come out my voice is somehow softer. When visiting new small groups I'm the one who goes and sits in a corner, unable to join in the merriment until someone pulls me in and makes me forget to be shy. When I'm at home, no one could ever call me shy. But when I'm out, some
Amelia Wyckoff
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Amelia Wyckoff
March 25, 2014

- The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine

-Marlee Nisbett is a painfully shy 13 year old white girl who never speaks. Liz Fullerton is an outgoing and clever 13 year old African American girl. JT and Red Dalton are two racist brothers with a father in the Ku Klux Klan. Marlee's father is an intellectual teacher who believes in integration.

-The book is set in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. Marlee is struggling with her shyness, and finds a true friend in Liz, a new
Debbie G
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful historical fiction novel about the racism, segregation, and school closings that occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas in the late 1950's.

The main character is a 12 year old girl named Marlee. Marlee was extremely smart but shy, to the point where she didn't talk to anyone outside of her family. Then she met Liz, the new girl at her school. Liz was confident, funny, well-spoken and clever. They both desperately needed a friend. Liz was supportive of Marlee, and Marlee finally met
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Words are not Marlee's thing. She doesn't like to talk to anyone beyond her family and few friends. Words are easy to confuse. They are unclear and imprecise. Numbers, on the other hand, are constant and steady. They are reliable and relaxing. Marlee will need their support if she is going to get through the next series of changes in her life. This will be the first year Marlee will be without her brother. He's off to college. The night before school is to start, Governer Faubus announced in an ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't care who you are, drop what you're doing and read this book. Right now. I know the cover is terrible, but I promise you won't regret it. I believe you won't be able to put it down. I certainly couldn't.

Kristin Levine's sophomore novel is absolutely divine. Beautifully written, with a rich story that covers several topics that are in no way dated, although the story takes place in 1958. While most people know about Little Rock, Arkansas and what took place in 1957 (the integration of the
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