Leo and the Lesser Lion
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.
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.