When I posted about some of my favorite young adult and middle grade audiobooks last month, Em from Love YA Lit recommended Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. I’m so glad she did!
About the Book:
Lonnie Collins Motion (Locomotion, for short) is in the sixth grade. He writes letters to his younger sister, Lili, which he’s saving to give to her later. The whole story is told through these letters.
We learn that Lonnie and Lili’s parents are gone and that the children are separated, living in different foster homes. We learn that Lonnie is a poet, that he’s protective of Lili, that he plans for them to live together as soon as they can. Lonnie struggles to understand where his and Lili’s foster parents fit into their lives. Are Miss Edna (his foster mother) and her sons Lonnie’s family, the same way that Lonnie and Lili and their parents were a family?
As Lonnie writes to Lili, his joy, anger, frustration, confusion, and inspiration are captured in his words as he works through the puzzles life hands him.
Peace, Locomotion is only two hours long on audio. When I got it from the library, I thought, how interesting can a two-hour audiobook really be? The answer is very.
Lonnie had me from the first letter. He deals with a lot of big issues for a kid his age: how to stay close to his sister, even though they’re living separate lives; how to remain loyal to his parents while allowing himself to be part of his foster family; how to understand an unnamed war into which a foster brother he’s never met was drafted. But he also deals with the regular kid stuff: a friend moving away, a tough subject in school, a new teacher. His story is poignant and warm and absorbing.
Each letter begins “Dear Lili.” In them, Lonnie talks about how grown up Lili’s getting, how she looks like their mama, how he’s overjoyed when they can spend time together and disappointed when they can’t. He talks of plans for the future, when they’ll be together again. But the letters are also a sounding board for his own thoughts, a place where he can process the things he’s trying to understand. There’s even a poem sprinkled here and there. The format works for such a short book because only the things you need to know come across. Just the thoughts and experiences that are important to Lonnie get through, and in a way, that’s freeing. The story isn’t weighed down by extraneous detail.
I didn’t realize when I listened to Peace, Locomotion that there is an earlier book entitled simply Locomotion and told through Lonnie’s poems. I had no trouble whatsoever following Peace, Locomotion without having read the earlier novel. Locomotion might add some back story to its sequel, but I did not notice any gaps that would make one novel dependent on the other.
I second Em’s recommendation of the audio version of Peace, Locomotion, read by Dion Graham. Graham does a phenomenal job saturating Lonnie’s words with emotion, bringing the young poet to life and carving out space for him in your heart.
Peace, Locomotion was my first Jacqueline Woodson novel, but I doubt it will be my last. Really, truly, if you have two hours to spare, spend it listening to Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson!
Have you read anything by Jacqueline Woodson? How about a short book that ended up containing much more than you initially expected?