Title: The Lions of Little Rock
Author: Kristin Levine
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Concepts: social justice, racial inequality, discrimination, economics of education, economic history
Review: Beginning the new school year in 1958 at Little Rock's West Side Junior High, Marlee wondered how long it would take for her teachers to figure out that she would not speak at school. Not a word, for Marlee did not speak out loud to anyone except her family members.
This situation turned on its head when Marlee befriended a new girl at school named Liz. Liz could somehow understand Marlee and even encourage her to give an oral presentation before the entire class. Surprisingly though, Liz stopped coming to school one day when word got out that she was a light-skinned African American trying to pass as white in an all-white junior high school.
Just a year after the "Little Rock Nine" had courageously integrated the high school, the elementary and junior high schools remained segregated and racial tensions had led to actual closings of the public high schools. Marlee now had a very good reason to find her voice and speak out so she could try to get her friend back.
This skillfully-crafted novel for young adults does an excellent job communicating what it was like to come of age in such a racially charged setting. Along the way the book covers important concepts in economics, especially the economics of education and racial discrimination in the provision of public services. Adding to the uniqueness of the book is its focus on Little Rock in the year after forced integration of the high schools, a year that garnered less coverage in the history books but one that encapsulated further noteworthy events related to integration and social cohesion.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children