22 April 2012
The Lions of Little Rock;
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It was nice that this work of historical fiction didn't try to add people from real life into the story (real events, on the other hand, are in here). All too often that happens and if you know about the real person it can be jarring.
Marlee's mutism seems to have no physical cause, it's all about her being shy, although I'm not sure that's really the case. There may have been something psychological that happened when she was much younger, something left unspoken and unexplored. It isn't until Liz, a new student in the junior high, starts talking to her that Marlee begins to overcome her fears. It's a little too convenient, too obvious a metaphor for being silent in the face of something that's wrong and then speaking out against it.
Liz' "passing" also feels a little wrong: didn't anyone notice where she lived? Yes, she was new to Little Rock, but it seems improbable that no one (adult) asked questions before she entered the school. Billie Jean's explanation of what happens when someone passes doesn't explain how Liz' mother thought they could get away with it for long, because someone - at some time - would have seen her going to and from school.
Having said that, this isn't a bad way for middle grade readers to get an introduction to the question of race or the events in Little Rock during the start of the desegregation movement.