Thursday, August 8, 2013

Haute Reads: The Lions of Little Rock

So cancelling my cable? 

Best choice ever. 

Last summer I wasted many a precious day wandering in and out of conciousness as the Food Network droned on in front of me. I'm not really sure where all the hours of every day went, but I can tell you where they didn't go: towards reading, writing, or any sort of social interaction. 

Cancelling cable was going to be my excuse to finally make a dent in the endless "to read" lists I create on GoodReads that never seem to get any smaller. Plus, now that I'm back in the big city (after a loooong two years in rural North Carolina) I also have the power of a library that is able to aquire books relatively soon after they've been published. (By "relatively soon" I mean at all.)
One of the first books on my list: The Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine. Recommended by a fellow middle school Language Arts teacher (so you know that shiz is good), it's the story of two junior high students the year after the Little Rock Nine integrated into Central High School in Arkansas. Before I read this, I really only knew the basics of what went on in Little Rock in 1957: Nine African-American students. Integration. Mass chaos. I had no idea that the very next year, high schools in Little Rock closed for the entire year rather than allow integration, forcing most families to send their high schoolers elsewhere to attend school. (Seriously, people?)

But I digress. Since I wouldn't do it justice, here's the blurb from Park Road Books:

As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

Here's my description: freaking tear jerker. 

Let me put it this way: I read. A lot. There are very few books that inspire me, much less move me. This book? Caused me to wipe away silent tears with one hand while I balanced my hardcover in the other. It was that good. Reading about middle schoolers not only reminds me of how I experienced the world at that age, but also how much more my students can handle than I give them credit for. Marlee and Liz are rare finds among young female characters these days: smart, rebellious, and vulnerable. They're as concerned about social justice as they are what other people think of them. (That's probably saying a lot for anyone, much less middle schoolers.) 

So I'm one book down, about five hundred to go. And I haven't missed cable once.  

Find your copy at an independent bookstore like Park Road Books


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