Summary from the Book Jacket
When Lonnie Collins Motion "Locomotion" was seven years old, his life changed forever. Now he's eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all.
Some days, like today
and yesterday and probably
tomorrow—all my missing gets jumbled up inside of me.
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 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
And I’m remembering
all kinds of good things about her like
the way she laughed at my jokes
even when they were dumb
and the way she sometimes just grabbed me
and hugged me before
I had a chance to get away.
And the way her voice always sounded good
and bad at the same time when she was singing
in the shower.
And her red pocketbook that always had some
tangerine Life Savers inside it for me and Lili
No, I say to the cosmetics lady. It’s not the right one.
And then I leave fast.
Before somebody asks to check my pockets
which are always empty ’cause I don’t steal.
Locomotion is written in free verse poetry through the eyes of a fifth grade boy who is living in a foster home after the sudden death of his parents. I was drawn into this story immediately! Lonnie’s voice grabs you and does not let go until the last line.
The story often flashes back to shed light on Lonnie’s life before living with Mrs. Edna while also progressively revealing the mystery of his parents' death. Much of the story takes place in the present as he develops familial ties with Mrs. Edna’s family, connects with his little sister living with another family, and navigates school and friendships.
There are the layers of his experience that will be enlightening to some children while many will empathize with other parts. Lonnie is African-American and a foster child. He struggles to fit in at school and to deal with loss. Fortunatley, Lonnie is able to create new family and community ties which help him with his struggles.
Woodson does an amazing job capturing this young character’s middle grade experiences. There are heart-breaking and heart-warming moments. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy this story.
Among Locomotion’s numerous honors, it was National Book Award Finalist and a Coretta Scott King Honor winner. I recommend this book for ages 9-13. However, it is a story that teens and adults will enjoy as well.
For teachers, here is a Literature Circle Guide.
Visit Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe for more Marvelous Middle Grade recommendations.