Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958
Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.
But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.
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Kristin Levine, the author of ALA Best Book for Young Adults The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, lives in Alexandria, Virginia.From Booklist:
In Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, as politicians rage for and against the struggle to integrate schools, Marlee, 13, is a math whiz but she has a personal problem with mutism—she’s terrified to say things aloud in public. Then she makes friends—and more importantly, talks—with Lizzie, the new girl in her middle school, who encourages Marlee to even do an oral presentation in class together. Then one day Lizzie is thrown out of school. It turns out that she is a light-skinned black passing for white, and the locals refuse to follow the federal integration order. (Several kids and rabid adults use the n-word.) Marlee and Lizzie meet secretly, until it becomes too dangerous, with threatening phone calls and the KKK always around. Marlee discovers dynamite in a classmate’s car, and yet still the police do nothing. Marlee’s first-person narrative brings home the standoffs with classmates, family, and officials, but what is most moving is that while most do not change, some do. Readers who want more about the history can start with the long final note and bibliography. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman
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