by Jacqueline Woodson
First sentence: “Dear Lili, As you know, in a few days I’m going to be twelve.”
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Review copy sent to me by the publisher for the Cybils.
This book was about second chances for me. I read one Jacqueline Woodson book a long time ago (at least 10 years) and I had a bad experience with it. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to pick another one up, because I know she’s quite respected.
Whatever it was, I’m duly chastised: this was a lovely little book, beautiful in its simplicity, it’s a book full of characters and themes that I will be thinking about for a long time.
It’s a sequel, but it works quite well on its own. The book is a series of letters from Lonnie — aka Locomotion — to his younger sister Lili. They’ve been put in different foster homes after a fire killed their parents. The loss is still there, at least for Locomotion, and he’s made it his “job” to help Lili not forget his parents. But, that’s not all in his life. He likes his foster mother and one of his foster brothers. His other foster brother, whom he’s never met, is away in the Army, fighting. It’s a nondescript war — it could be either Vietnam or Iraq; one of the things that really stood out was how timeless this book was — but the fact that this boy, someone who didn’t like fighting at all when he was younger, was away doing things struck Locomotion as really unfair. And, after talking, he decides to pray for peace. But then, he realizes that peace isn’t just something big, something grand: it’s in the little things as well.
It’s a book full of simple things, everyday things — like crocuses and good home cooked meals and solving a math problem — but in those things happiness, peace is found. Woodson is a powerful writer, evoking images with the barest of words. She captures Locomotion’s voice perfectly, but she does more than that: Even though we rarely “heard” them, I feel like I knew the other characters in the book, from his sister Lili through to his older foster brothers Rodney and Jenkins. It’s a perfect example of showing: there was very little descriptions, and yet I had a perfect picture of everyone.