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.
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6-In Jacqueline Woodson's novel (Putnam, 2003), fifth grader Lonnie Collins Motion, an African-American boy whose parents were killed in a fire four years ago, is given an assignment by his teacher to write different forms of poetry. Collected here are 60 poems in verse that reveal his innermost thoughts about his family, his friends, and his place in the world. Through Lonnie's poetry notebook, we learn that he is a foster child living in New York City, and that he has been separated from his little sister, Lili. This school assignment has given Lonnie an outlet for dealing with his feelings of grief over the loss of his parents and coming to terms with his present situation. JD Jackson narrates the poems with a genuine and honest voice, allowing listeners to feel the rhythm of the different poetry styles from sonnets to haiku to free verse. Jackson's performance is tender at times and full of energy at others, giving Lonnie's character tremendous depth and bringing to life all of the lesser characters. We are able to see directly into his life and feel his sorrow and pain as well as his hope for the future. This novel about survival and the resiliency of the human spirit should be an essential purchase for all libraries with the print version in their collections and should be paired with it at every opportunity.Casey Rondini, Westerly Public Library, RI
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