It was hard to pick our Mock Newbery list for the Maryland statewide event in January. Like, really hard. There's an embarrassment of riches to choose from this year, and some excellent titles had to be left off.
The Lions of Little Rock is one of those books that we ended up omitting from our list, but that's not to say it isn't an excellent book. Rachael spoke highly of it back in our very first review of a 2013-eligible book, and I agree with pretty much everything she said. There's a skillfully-evoked sense of place and time in this novel, and Marlee is a complex and sympathetic heroine.
Lions blends Civil Rights issues with the interpersonal dynamics of family and friends, and does so almost seamlessly. Indeed, it's basically the book that Glory Be aspired to be, one that fully succeeds in meditating on the changes that adolescence and maturity bring to parental, sisterly, and social relationships at the same time that it discusses race relations and civic justice. I can't think of much to fault it for, except possibly starting out a bit slowly.
As of right now, The Lions of Little Rock is probably towards the back end of my top 10 books of the year, maybe a hair behind Crow. Because the interpersonal dynamics and the plotting are so exceptional, however, it's one that I might be able to be talked into moving up on the list.