This story is about the year after Arkansas was forced to integrate their high schools. The Little Rock Nine, nine African-American teens, braved the crowds, the publicity, the hate and the racism to take that first step toward equality in the Little Rock public school system. The author thought that that was what she was going to write about when she went to Little Rock. But when she started talking to people, all they could talk about was the year after the Little Rock Nine, when the governor of the state closed the schools in order to avoid integration.
Marlee is twelve years old and very shy–she only talks to her family. Her older sister has been sent away to highschool because the school in Little Rock is closed. Marlee misses her terribly. Then she meets the new girl, Liz, who says she just moved to Little Rock. Liz singles Marlee out to be her best friend and Liz is everything that Marlee is not. Liz speaks her mind, even with Marlee’s best friend Sally who is really kind of a bully. But Liz is very diplomatic and is able to get around Sally with flattery too. Liz decides that she is going to help Marlee talk and Marlee is amazed to find herself speaking up for the first time in her life. She also finds out that being friends with someone you really like and admire and share interests with can be very good. But then Sally finds out that Liz is actually African American and Liz has to leave school.
Can Marlee and Liz stay friends? How does Marlee feel about integration? Her Dad believes in it. Her mother is afraid of it. Can Marlee make a difference? Can she help reopen the schools so that her sister will come home? And what is going to happen with the older brother of the boy whose math homework she does? He wants to get back at Liz and her family for passing for white and Marlee knows he has dynamite in the trunk of his car! This is a wonderful friendship story, a coming of age story and a scary adventure story too. You may get bogged down a bit when Marlee is helping the Women’s Organization but keep reading. The action is yet to come!
Posted by: Fran