By Jacqueline Woodson
I found out about this book from Emily over at Emily Reads. Emily writes reviews in haiku format but they always pack a punch. After reading her haiku review for Locomotion and it’s follow up, Peace, Locomotion, I had to get my hands on it.
Lonnie Collins Motion, also known as Locomotion, is seven and his little sister, Lili, is four when their parents are killed in a house fire. After being moved from place to place, Lili is given a foster mom who doesn’t want to take Lonnie too. Lonnie is put in group homes before finally being placed with someone who wants him, the older Mrs. Edna.
Four years later Lonnie lands in Ms. Marcus’s fifth-grade class. Ms. Marcus shows Lonnie how to write down his thoughts and feelings in his poetry notebook. He writes of missing his parents, living without his baby sister, playing with friends, the things that make up his life.
Written in verse, Locomotion is a touching reflection on the heartbreak that Lonnie feels. I cried many times while reading this book but that’s not to say that it’s depressing. Lonnie’s heartbreak is one that anyone who’s lost family would feel. Another great thing about the book is the everyday moments that reminds you how precious life is.
You know honeysuckle talc powder?
Mama used to smell like that. She told me
honeysuckle’s really a flower but all I know
is the powder that smells like Mama.
Sometimes when the missing gets real bad
I go to the drugstore and before the guard starts
following me around like I’m gonna steal something
I go to I go to the cosmetics lady and ask her if she has it.
When she says yeah, I say
Can I smell it to see if it’s the right one?
Even though the cosmetics ladies roll their eyes at me
they let me smell it.
And for those few seconds, Mama’s alive
Woodson has created such an authentic character. I didn’t believe for a second that this wasn’t the voice of a child who’s growing and learning, grieving and trying to make sense of all that has happened to him and his family. It’s not surprising that Locomotion was a 2003 National Book Award finalist for young adult literature. Though it’s been stated that this is a book for kids ages nine to twelve, I think this book is for ages nine and up. My fear is that by labeling this book for a certain age group, teens and adults will think this book is not for them and that’s not true. Don’t miss out by not reading this book. It’s in the top three of my favorite books of 2009 so far.