Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Speak, 2004 (reprinted in 2010)
Where and why: I managed to find this copy at my local Used Book Superstore after searching high and low (the library was taking too long to get it through ILL). I read it for the poetry unit in my summer class.
This is 11-year-old Lonnie Collins Motion's story, told through verse. One of his school assignments is a poetry notebook, a project his teacher Ms. Marcus devised for her students. At first unsure of his abilities as a poet, we see as the book progresses how he uses it as an outlet for grief, anger and his insecurity about the future. Living in a foster home, Lonnie eventually reveals to us through his poetry that he was orphaned at the age of 7 and was soon separated from his sister, who was adopted.
Lonnie shows us his nightmares, his bad memories, his struggles and triumphs at school, and his hopes for a brighter future. Though it is mostly in free verse, which he says he prefers as there are no rules to follow, he does experiment with other forms as Ms. Marcus teaches them in her classroom. He writes haiku, a sonnet, and is especially excited about epistle poems (poems in letter format).
Woodson deals with some pretty serious themes, like the loss of loved ones (even if they aren't necessarily dead), poverty, family (what constitutes "family" and the meaning of it), and spirituality (Lonnie explores his belief in God). Yet she also confronts everyday issues, like friendship, bullying, and the way kids look at poetry.
Lonnie often has to decide how to express his interest and talent in poetry, at first choosing to keep it a secret. As the school year progresses, he gets more comfortable with himself and his ability as a writer, sharing his penchant more often with his classmates and others. I really loved how Woodson likened it to rapa reluctant boy in the class refuses at first, but when Ms. Marcus mentions that rappers are poets, the boy is more than willing to participate in the poetry portion of class.
Locomotion is a great place to start a child's interest or education in poetry. It can be used in the classroom to teach about different ways it can be used, different forms, and show how it's not just for the people in your textbooks. It's a living, breathing art form, and anyone can use iteven fifth-graders.