Friday, August 2, 2013

nor be troubled

I loved the historical fiction novel The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. The year is 1958, one year after the Little Rock Nine, and both local and state governments have closed many Arkansas high schools in opposition to integration. Both children and adults struggle to form their opinions on the issue of what's right.

Marlee is in junior high, but her shyness prevents her from talking to most people... until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. The book is written in Marlee's insightful, first-person narrative. She navigates social issues large and small with great courage.  Her voice is brave and compelling, making this book a real page turner.

The Lions of Little Rock definitely sparks an interest in learning more about civil rights and segregation.

If you read The Lions of Little Rock as part of our Summer Reading series... read on...

Early in the book, Marlee shares:
"You see to me, people are like things you drink. Some are like a pot of black coffee, no cream, no sugar. They make me so nervous I start to tremble. Others calm me down enough that I can sort through the words in my head and find something to say."
She likens her brother to a glass of sweet iced tea on a hot summer day, her father to a glass of milk, cold and delicious, that on occasion goes sour. Her mother is like strong hot black tea, while her sister is like an iced cold Coca-Cola. Do you agree with Marlee's assessment of her family? If you saw your family as things you drink, what would they be?

When Marlee's parents argue about integration, their two sides of the issue sum up what people were thinking at the time:
"I can't believe the governor would rather close the schools than have you go with a couple of Negroes," Daddy said to Judy.
"That's not what he said," Mother snapped. "It's about states' rights, preserving our way of life and respecting Southern traditions. Not to mention maintaining the peace."
What is the difference between Marlee's parents' views on integration of the schools in Little Rock? 

As is often the case, people look for evidence that supports their beliefs and ignore evidence that contradicts them. There is a saying that we don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. Have you ever experienced this?

Marlee says that when she is nervous or scared, she begins to count prime numbers from 1 - 100:
2  3  5  7  11  13  17  19  23  29  31  37  41  43  47  59  61  67  71  73  79  83  89  97
"It's important to face your fears," said Liz. "It makes you a better person."
What do you do when you are nervous or scared? Do you agree with Liz that it is important to face your fears?

The Women's Emergency Committee to Open our Schools

"That week in Sunday school, Miss Winthrop was talking about the apostle Peter and how he thought you should be good, kind and loving to everyone, even if it was hard. I was thinking, okay, it's just the Golden Rule. Then she read a quote from 1 Peter 3:14 that caught my attention: But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled."

The empty halls of Central High School 1958

"Maybe Mother wasn't selfish or uncaring. Maybe she was scared. Maybe she masked it like David did, not with a grin, but with a frown."

"Doing the right thing was harder than I'd expected it to be. And more confusing too."
"He'd said that things could be different in Little Rock, if only the right people could find their voice."

"I've thought about it a lot," I said. "I think a friend is someone who helps you change for the better. And whether you see them once a day or once a year, if it's a true friend, it doesn't matter."

In the author's notes, my favorite bit was:
"Sometimes I think people today forget that public schools are not just about reading and writing, math and test scores, but also about bringing different types of people together." 
Listen to an Audio Excerpt of The Lions of Little Rock HERE

I hope you loved this book as much as I did!

Be sure to read the second part of this fiction/non-fiction pairing, Little Rock Girl 1957 by August 9th; we'll be discussing it then.

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