From Publishers Weekly
The kinetic energy of the aptly named Locomotion (the nickname of Lonnie Collins Motion) permeates the 60 poems that tell his sad yet hopeful story. Lonnie's first poem sets up a conflict familiar to anyone who has attempted creativity: despite the cheering of his teacher, Ms. Marcus ("Write it down before it leaves your brain," she says), as he begins to write, Lonnie hears the critical voice of his foster mother ("It's Miss Edna's over and over/ Be quiet!"). As Lonnie explores poetry's various forms throughout this brief yet poignant and occasionally humorous volume, he also reveals Miss Edna's kindness toward him in the little things she says and does ("The last time Miss Edna came home and found me/ crying She said Think/ about all the stuff you love, Lonnie"). Gradually Lonnie reveals that at age seven, his parents died in a fire, leaving him and his younger sister, Lili, orphaned. Lili was adopted, yet Lonnie figures out a way to visit her regularly. The gradual unfolding of his life's events intermingle with his discoveries about poetry as a form, from haiku to sonnets ("Ms. Marcus says "sonnet" comes from "sonnetto"/ and that sonnetto means little song or sound/ It reminds me of that guy's name Gepetto/ the one who made Pinocchio from wood he found") to the epistle poems he writes to his father and to God. Woodson, through Lonnie, creates (much as Sharon Creech did with the boy narrator in Love That Dog) a contagious appreciation for poetry while using the genre as a cathartic means for expressing the young poet's own grief. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6-Lonnie Collins Motion, the Locomotion of the title, is a New York City fifth grader with a gifted teacher who assigns her class to write different forms of poetry. The house fire that killed Lonnie's parents and the four years of trauma and slow healing that follow are gradually revealed through his writings. In a masterful use of voice, Woodson allows Lonnie's poems to tell a complex story of loss and grief and to create a gritty, urban environment. Despite the spare text, Lonnie's foster mother and the other minor characters are three-dimensional, making the boy's world a convincingly real one. His reflections touch on poverty and on being African American when whites seem to have the material advantages, and return repeatedly to the pain of living apart from his younger sister. Readers, though, will recognize Lonnie as a survivor. As she did in Miracle Boys (Putnam, 2000), the author places the characters in nearly unbearable circumstances, then lets incredible human resiliency shine through. "I sneak a pen from my back pocket,/bend down low like I dropped something./The chorus marches up behind the preacher/clapping and humming and getting ready to sing./I write the word HOPE on my hand."-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.