Cover image for Leo and the Lesser Lion
Leo and the Lesser Lion
Forrester, Sandra.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2009]

Physical Description:
298 pages ; 22 cm
In Depression-era Alabama, twelve-year-old Mary Bayliss Pettigrew struggles to understand why her beloved older brother, Leo, died and whether she, miraculously, survived for some special purpose.
Reading Level:
870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.2 10.0 132205.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.6 17 Quiz: 47717.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A heartwarming family story set during the Depression that reads like a classic.

Everyone's been down on their luck since the Depression hit. But as long as Mary Bayliss Pettigrew has her beloved older brother, Leo, to pull pranks with, even the hardest times can be fun. Then one day, there's a terrible accident, and when Bayliss wakes up afterward, she must face the heartbreaking prospect of life without Leo.

And that's when her parents break the news: they're going to be fostering two homeless little girls, and Bayliss can't bear the thought of anyone taking Leo's place. But opening her heart to these weary travelers might just be the key to rebuilding her grieving family.

Author Notes

Sandra Forrester is the author of several historical fiction novels and is also the author of the Beatrice Bailey Magical Adventure series. She has a master's degree in library and information studies and lives in Alabama. This is her first novel for Knopf.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's a miracle that Mary Bayliss Pettigrew is alive. Everybody in Lenore, Alabama, says so. Why, she should have died in the swimming accident that killed her much-loved older brother Leo in that awful spring of 1932. With a little adult encouragement, 12-year-old Bayliss decides that God has spared her for a special purpose. But deciding to become a nun is her very own idea, and a startling one for the notorious tomboy prankster. And, sure enough, her vocation is soon tested when her parents take in two homeless little girls, give them Leo's old bedroom, and make Bayliss their full-time babysitter. Set during the Great Depression, Forrester's novel suffers a bit from its slow pace and some overly familiar characters and situations. Nevertheless, it offers a convincing picture of a time of privation in the American South (though one wonders why there seem to be no black people in Lenore) and Bayliss's crises of conscience are believable and emotionally engaging.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the midst of the Great Depression, headstrong 12-year-old Mary Bayliss Pettigrew lives a somewhat lonely life in Lenore, Ala. Her touchstone is her fun-loving brother Leo, until he drowns in Sweet Springs Lake. Tormented by the question of why she survived ("What sense did it make to love a cat-or a person-when God could just snatch them away from you at any moment?"), Bayliss searches for her "special purpose" in order to bring Leo's spirit back. Sensitive and hardworking, she slowly develops the strength to incorporate the pain of the past with the joy of the present. She's set her mind on becoming a nun when her parents decide to take in two orphans. At first Bayliss resents these "weary travelers," but despite the family's temporary poverty, she learns to love again. Forrester's (the Beatrice Bailey series) tale is replete with period charm and solid dialogue, and carries a clear message of selflessness: "When you put somebody else's needs ahead of your own, you just might end up getting something you need in return." Ages 8-12. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-In this story set in Alabama during the Depression, 12-year-old Bayliss describes her love for her big brother, Leo, and their fun-filled pranks. Wherever Leo was, Bayliss couldn't be far behind. But one tragic day, an accident takes his life while she is spared, and she questions why. A nurse suggests that it's a miracle and that there must be a reason she was saved, and Bayliss decides to find her life's purpose. She researches saints and thinks she might become a nun, a change from her former spunky behavior. She is determined to have a charitable activity and decides to help nuns with the "weary travelers" at the hobo camp. The local orphanage is filled to capacity and her parents bring two sisters into their home until permanent placement can be found. Bayliss resents this intrusion, but wonders if these two girls are her charitable contribution. The entire family questions their Catholic beliefs and the actions of God. Quirky and thought-provoking, This novel takes readers on a personal journey of discovery. Forrester's depth of insight into the memorable characters she has developed and the emotions she mines make for a satisfying read-one that will cause readers to question their purpose and hug their families.-Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER ONE: Six of one It all started with the boat. If Mr. Davies hadn't given Leo that old rowboat, we wouldn't have been anywhere near the lake and none of it would have happened. At first, I'd think about that a lot, even though it didn't change a thing. I couldn't seem to help it. But that Saturday night in March, two days before my life would change forever, I didn't even know yet that there was a boat. I was just sitting in bed scribbling away--with my cat, Rosie, asleep in my lap--feeling pretty near content. If the neighbors had looked out at our house around eleven-thirty, they would have seen that all the windows were dark except for one of the dormers on the second floor. That was my room. It was way past my bedtime, but I was writing in my tablet like I'd been doing for the past two years, ever since I did that report on the Alaska Territory for Sister Agnes's class and came across something that made me sit up and take notice. I was at the library reading about Alaska in an old National Geographic when this one paragraph just leaped out at me. It told how a lady explorer named Dora Keen had risked life and limb to climb a glacier-covered mountain called Mount Blackburn. She faced all kinds of dangers--snowstorms and avalanches and freezing cold--but thirty-three days after starting up that mountain, she became the first woman to ever make it to the top. Well, I just kept reading that paragraph over and over, soaking up the details. And the wonder of it. Because I'd never heard of a woman doing anything like that before. In school, when the nuns talked about explorers, they were all men, like Christopher Columbus or Lewis and Clark. Nobody had ever mentioned Dora Keen, who, in my opinion, was a sure-dog marvel. And that's when the idea started growing inside my head that I could be an explorer someday, too, just like Dora Keen. Then I started wondering if there might be other women I'd never heard of who'd done astonishing things and decided to make it my business to find out. Leo and Miss Ida Henderson at the library helped me look through newspapers and magazines, and sure enough, we came across a whole slew of ladies who should have been written up in the history books but weren't. So Leo had one of his brilliant notions--that I write my own book about them--and he bought me a Big Chief tablet at Gilchrist Mercantile to get me started. We talked over what to call it and finally settled on Remarkable Women and Their Amazing Adventures. I printed that on the cover, and then Leo said I should add By Bayliss Pettigrew, which I thought was a nice touch. Inside, I wrote about every woman we'd found, and I kept coming up with new ones till all but the last few pages of my tablet were filled with these ladies and their adventures. Anyhow, that Saturday night in March, I was putting down the facts of Ruth Law flying an airplane from Chicago to New York and setting a new record, but also keeping my ears open. At the first squeak of my mother and daddy's bedroom door, I was ready to scoot under the covers like I'd been asleep all along. But it wasn't anybody in the house who broke the silence; it was the sudden pounding on the front door that startled me so, I nearly jumped out of my skin before recovering enough to switch off the lamp. I sat there holding Rosie, my heart thumping like crazy, while the pounding on the door grew louder and more desperate. It took a few seconds for me to realize that it was probably just somebody needing Daddy, somebody with sickness in the family or a baby on the way. Not everybody had a telephone, especially out in the country, so it wasn't unusual for folks to come by the house at all hours. Daddy was hurrying down the hall to the stairs, the floorboards creaking under his feet. Soon the pounding stopped, and I heard a man's voice, gruff with worry, and then my daddy speaking in that calm, steady way of his. My eyes w Excerpted from Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.