Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mock Newbery 2010: Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: Peace, Locomotion
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
ISBN: 978-0399246555
Starred review in: SLJ


Having survived the fire that claimed his parents, twelve year old Lonnie finds himself settling into life with his new foster family. Separated from his little sister, Lili, he writes lovingly to her of his thoughts and experiences during their time apart. Though he is surrounded by a strong support network of teachers, friends, and foster family, Lonnie’s best outlet for his jumbled emotions is his writing. As an aspiring poet, Lonnie takes comfort in searching for the right words to express the emotional entanglements he faces. Aside from the twin aches caused by the loss of his parents and the separation from his sister, Lonnie struggles to accept the ease with which Lili adapts to her new family and how quickly she is willing to call her foster care giver “Mama.” Further, as his bond to his own foster family strengthens, Lonnie becomes a part of the uncertainty and anxiety a family faces when a son and brother is deployed overseas.

Prior to becoming Lonnie’s foster mother, Miss Edna raised two sons of her own. Her oldest son, Jenkins, is serving in Iraq throughout the first portion of the book. Eventually, Miss Edna receives word that Jenkins has gone missing. The tension and despair on the part of Miss Edna are palpable which translates to fear and confusion for Lonnie. When Jenkins is found and sent home badly wounded, Lonnie is frightened by Jenkins’ condition and unsure of how to approach a “brother” he has never met. The story concludes as Lonnie makes peace with his new concepts of family as he finds his place among people who love him.


As the title suggests, peace is a central theme in this novel. As Lonnie wishes for peace around the world, he also slowly works toward inner peace as he adjusts to the new realities of his life. Gratifying, if somewhat idealized, Lonnie has encountered more in his young life than many will ever have to experience, and yet manages to remain unboundedly optimistic.

Insightful and timely, this novel handles some of the harsher realities of the Iraq War’s casualties with sensitivity and grace. Lonnie is wise and perceptive, while his voice remains believable and compelling. Overall, this story is a tribute to the ever fluid definition of “family.” Additionally, it is important to note that while Peace, Locomotion is a companion volume to Woodson’s Locomotion, this book is capable of standing entirely on its own. In fact, it does so beautifully.

1 comment:

Nan Hoekstra said...

Indeed - a stunning story, perfectly written. And, may I say, your review was pretty outstanding too. This book will be on the first list over at Anokaberry Annotated. I loved your observation that "the story is a tribute to the ever fluid definition of family..."