Listening for Lions
Author: Gloria Whelan
Publication Year: 2005
Brief Summary: This historical novel tells the story of 13-year-old Rachel, whose missionary parents died in the 1919 influenza epidemic of East Africa. Orphaned and alone, she is tricked into living a lie by the Pritchards, who forced Rachel to assume the identity of their dead daughter in order to receive a handsome inheritance. Rachel has dreams of her own — including returning to Africa as a woman doctor. Will she outsmart the Pritchards and their wicked scheme, or is she doomed to become prey to others’ traps?
Awards, Honors and Prizes:
Great Lakes Great Books Award, 2007 Honor Book Grades 4-5 Michigan
Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2005 ; Bank Street College of Education
Booklist Book Review Stars , May 15, 2005 ; American Library Association
Children’s Books 2005: One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2005 ; New York Public Library
Children’s Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Ninth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson Company
Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.
- Discussion of British colonialism in Africa. What does this mean for the Brits? For the natives? What are some of its implications? Older students can do further research about the history of colonialism in Africa and discuss this part of history from different perspectives.
- Discuss the theme of “freedom” and what it may mean to various characters in the book. What kind of metaphors for freedom can you find in the book?
- Discuss the history of women in medicine…why do you think women were not allowed to practice medicine earlier in history? The book discusses some of the reasons…do you agree with these or not? Hold a mock debate with students researching and arguing from both sides.
- What are some ways Rachel is able to overcome the adversity in her life? Discuss goal-setting and practical ways to achieve your goals.
- What lessons does Rachel learn about truth vs. dishonesty? How did she feel when she pretended to be Valerie? How did she feel when she finally revealed the truth?
- Students may be encouraged to do further research on one of the animals/plants mentioned in this book. The class could read the novel together and go onto do individual research projects on animals/plants in Africa/Britain…perhaps discussing how animals/plants are same/different in Africa and Britain (due to climate, habitat, people’s philosophies, etc.). For example, animals roam free in Africa but are held captive in Britain; flowers grow wild in Africa vs. formal English gardens; flowers that grow in Britain cannot survive in Africa, etc. How does Whelan use these differences to support the themes in this book?
- Students can be encouraged to read other orphan stories or other stories about Africa.
- Author’s note and glossary are included in the back of the book.
- Link to HarperCollins teaching guide.
- Recommended for readers 10 and up. Will primarily appeal to girls, students interested in Africa, students who like mysteries/suspense, and reluctant/struggling readers. Would work well as a class read-aloud.
Gentle, nostalgic, and fueled with old-fashioned girl power, this involving orphan story will please fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden (1912) and Eva Ibbotson’s The Star of Kazan (2004). (Booklist)
Listening for Lions is a quiet story that roars in its ability to help readers make sense of hardships that befall humankind. It speaks softly but leaves a lasting impression of strength of character and the wisdom of following one’s dreams. It will have lasting appeal and a ready audience. (VOYA)
Whelan’s formidable and appealing heroine will keep readers rooting for her dream of a home with the lions of Africa. (Publishers Weekly)
Accessed at: Personal Library