The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock

It is 1958, the year after the “Little Rock Nine” integrated an all-white high school setting off some of our country’s most vehement protests against segregation. Marlee is a 12-years-old middle-schooler who doesn’t speak. It isn’t that she can’t speak. It’s just that she chooses not to.

A new girl named Liz arrives in Marlee’s classroom and they soon become friends in spite of Marlee’s resistance to normal conversation. When Liz doesn’t come to school, the rumors begin to circulate that she was actually an African-American passing for white thus putting herself and her family at risk of reprisal.


When the two girls decide their friendship is more important than their color they both become embroiled in the prejudice, fear, and danger that engulfed Little Rock, Arkansas during that turbulent time. This is a powerful story about a sad chapter in the history of the American South but also a gentle reminder of how far we have come in healing the racial divide. Savvy readers will recognize that we are still on that journey. Ages 10 and up.

300 pages

ISBN: 978-0399256448


It’s not that Marlee can’t talk; she just doesn’t, at least not until she meets Liz, the new girl at school.  Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: brave, brash, and always knows the right thing to say. But then Liz leaves school without even saying goodbye and the rumor is that Liz was “passing for white.”  Marlee decides that doesn’t matter; she just wants her friend back.  Marlee and Liz are willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

Twelve-year-old Marlee is facing a world of change in 1958.  She’s starting middle school and a whole round of new teachers that don’t know that Marleee doesn’t like to talk.  Plus her sister will be at the high school and her brother has just started college. When Liz is a new member of her class, Marlee finds the chance for a new friend, who just might understand her.  Unfortunately Liz has secrets of her own and the big one that could put both their lives in danger.  Set in a time where you could be killed just for talking to someone of a different race, Marlee learns to navigate her world and develop into her own person, finding her voice at last. 1958, the year after the Little Rock Nine, when all high school in Little Rock closed for the year rather than integrate, is a fascinating time in the history of Civil Rights.  Marlee’s story allows a glimpse into that highly charged time. 

Recommended by Alicie L. Cyphers, Librarian and Reading Specialist, Pennsylvania, USA
ALSC Tween Recommended Reads

User reviews

Have you read this book? We'd love to hear what you think. Click the button below to write your own review!
Already have an account? or Create an account