Peace, Locomotion

February 11, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson; published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2009.

In the follow-up to the Coretta Scott King Honor winner Locomotion, Lonnie Collins Motion, or Locomotion, is living with a foster family while his sister, Lili, lives with another foster family across town.  In order to feel connected to her, and to document his life apart from Lili, 12-year-old Locomotion writes letters.  Sometimes they’re just a couple of sentences long, sometimes they include a poem, but mostly they expose the difficulties and triumphs of Locomotion’s transition into a new life and a new family.  Because his foster brother is away at war, Lonnie decides that discovering all he can learn about “peace” will be his goal; praying for it, writing about it, seeking it out in his daily routines.  He finds peace in so many places: the substitute teacher that reminds him that he is a poet; a kiss on the top of the head from Miss Edna; a running hug from a Saturday meeting with Lili; and even in a discussion about crocuses with mean Miss Shore.  In the end, Locomotion’s undaunted spirit soars and I believe he’s taking many other souls with him.

Woodson’s lyrical style shines.  Each chapter opens with “Dear Lili” and ends with endearing riffs on “Love, Lonnie” or “Peace, Locomotion.”  Upper elementary and middle schoolers (well, maybe only through seventh grade) should enjoy the story.  Teachers could use the letter style as a springboard to writing activities.  Discussion topics are amazingly diverse as well–family and friendship; war and peace; the power of words to hurt or help; and even sickle cell anemia.

My emotions were on my sleeve as I read Locomotion’s letters.  Questions rose to the surface: What defines a family? Can wanting something enough, even something as ethereal as peace, make it come true?  I think this book would be ideal to use during National Adoption Month, or in any display or pathfinder about families.  Since the audiobook was one of three Honor Recordings in the 2010 Odyssey Award race, I think it would be great to pair the book with the audio version and promote it for reluctant readers or struggling readers.

I am ashamed to admit I never read Locomotion. Fortunately, Peace, Locomotion stands on its own. I will be checking the first book out at the library soon….


Entry filed under: Realistic Fiction, Starred Review Book (Horn Book, Booklist. School Library Journal, Kirkus or PW). Tags: , , , .

And the winners are… My Abuelita is a great storyteller

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