The remarkable story of the Little Rock Nine is familiar to many, but what happened next? In this quietly powerful page-turner, Levine focuses her attention on the events that unfolded in Little Rock the year after the integration of the city’s public schools.
Readers meet quiet, 12-year-old Marlee and her outgoing and warm-hearted best friend, Liz, who is instrumental in Marlee’s burgeoning ability to speak her mind to anyone outside of her family. To Marlee’s dismay, Liz suddenly vanishes from school, and the rumor is that she has been passing for white. Marlee initially feels betrayed by her friend, but her understanding of the complicated nature of race relations and politics matures. Levine sensitively portrays her process as she sorts out these feelings, finds a way to stay friends with Liz and becomes involves with the Womens’ Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) after the city shuts down all of its public schools to prevent integration. When Marlee’s father, a schoolteacher, is fired because of his pro-integration stance, the entire family becomes involved in the Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP) campaign in an attempt to have all of the teachers rehired and the public schools reopened.
This engaging story, with its emphasis on the impact of friendship and on finding one’s voice when it is most important to be heard, will no doubt appeal to a broad range of readers and inspire many interesting conversations. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)