Reading Along I-94: The Lions of Little Rock, Part 3

Each week Jen Vincent and I talk books. For the month of June we are chatting about The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine.


JEN: I love the friendship between Marlee and Liz. Liz is such a bold character. She and Marlee seem to make an unlikely pair but Liz’s friendship ends up helping Marlee from being so shy.

COLBY: Liz is such a strong young lady. Thinking about how different they are and how well their friendship works makes me smile.

JEN: Liz really believes in Marlee and helps her get ready for their class presentation. They really work together. Liz gives Marlee ideas and support and helps her practice. Marlee wants to try her hardest so she won’t let Liz down.

COLBY: It’s amazing how having someone believe in you can help you face and overcome your fears. Liz did such an amazing job of not trying to push Marlee too hard and supporting her as Marlee tried to defeat her demons.

JEN: What do you think about a friend or another person being able to influence someone in such a way? I would like to think that I live my life not hinging things on what other people think, but the truth is that I have a lot of people who I want to be proud of me. I really believe people have the power to make a big impact in our actions. I really felt like Liz and Marlee’s relationship really illustrates that.

COLBY: It’s amazing to me what people will do to try and make someone they love proud of them. I think that is a healthy way to be influenced by someone. It’s when we want to impress people that sometimes we run into problems. When I try to impress people that I look up to, I sometimes do things for the wrong reasons, but when I try to make people that I love proud, I’m usually doing something positive.

JEN: Oh! I just realized this is basically what Stephen Layne meant when he talked about balcony people at IRA. Balcony people are people who are support your and cheer you on. They are people who see the potential you have to be or do anything and they give you a nudge in that direction. I don’t know how often our balcony people are our peers – especially as kids. Liz and Marlee seem to be exactly the friend that they each needed.

Name one person who has been in your balcony and helped you like Liz helps Marlee. And what or how has he or she helped you?

COLBY: Hmm…I guess I would have to say Donalyn Miller. It’s so crazy for me to be friends with such an amazing educator. When I first got on Twitter and started interacting, I think that I wanted to try to impress Donalyn. As our friendship has developed, I feel like I now want to make her proud. She is someone that I’m not afraid to admit my weaknesses to, and as a result she has helped me tremendously as a teacher.

How about you?

JEN: My parents are always supportive me and any of my crazy ideas or endeavors or adventures. My husband is, too, although he’s sometimes less enthusiastic because most of the time it means more work for me and that means more work for him. I’m always jumping into things. Actually, he does the same thing so it works out.

When I think back on my whole teaching career – even into high school when I was deciding what I wanted to major in – there has been someone along the way who says, “You know, you should try this.” Or “Have you ever thought of doing this?” And I stop and think, and then I realize most of the time that what they are suggesting makes total sense. I just seem to have people in the right place at the right time to give me a little nudge and then I go off and running.

I’ve tried lately to be this person to other teachers. The person who says, “Have you ever thought about this?” Or “What if you tried this?” Sometimes you need another person to think ahead or think outside the box for you. Someone who gives you a little nudge but at the same time believes in you. I hope that even if they don’t embrace my ideas right away that maybe it’s the beginning of chipping away at their thinking in order to cause a change eventually. I am amazingly lucky to have people who believe in me and lead me in new directions. You are right, as long as people are influencing you in a good way, it’s an unbelievable force.


2 thoughts on “Reading Along I-94: The Lions of Little Rock, Part 3

  1. I loved hearing the idea of your ‘balcony’ people. It is a strong force that sometimes guides us. Marlee and Liz had a kinship that worked for them and even when events pushed against that friendship they held on, which I thought was pretty courageous. The author did show that each girl seemed to get their strength from a parent, too, & that helped them stumble through the hard things. Marlee’s dad, in his quiet way, kept his convictions, & that must have been challenging in those times. Thanks for the conversation Jen & Colby! It’s a terrific book!


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