Monday, April 13, 2015

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: Story in Poems

Grade Level: 4-8

Interest Level: 4-8

Themes: family, loss/grief, foster care, resilience, poetry

Sensitivity Issues: topic of parents death in a fire

Lonnie C. Motion is 11 years old and with the help of his teacher is finally finding a way to deal with the loss, grief and change that struck his life at the age of 7. 

Locomotion is one of my favorite Jacqueline Woodson books. Not only because the pages paint a vivid picture of Lonnie C. Motion, a wonderful 11 year old African American boy, but because it is a great book for instruction and engagement.

This is a story in poems. Poems that are assigned by a teacher, Ms. Marcus, who tells Lonnie to “write it down before it leaves your brain.” Right there on the first page, in the first poem, we learn who Lonnie is. “I tell her about the smoke and she says Good Lonnie, write that. Not a whole lot of people be saying Good Lonnie to me…”  I know this 11 year old Lonnie, not many people tell him what he does right, but many people are waiting for him to do something wrong. Ms. Marcus, however, gets him to write a whole book of what is in his head. The fire, his parents, the foster homes, his little sister and many ideas, thoughts and occurrences in between occupy the words on his pages.

This book is great for read alouds, reading in small groups and/or , reading independently. The poem format will be non-threatening for struggling readers, but it provides many opportunities for critical thinking/discussion, interpretation  of literary elements, and explicit discussion/learning about African American language.  If you are teaching poetry, then students can learn right along with Lonnie’s free verse, haiku, sonnets, epistles, epitaph. There are many ways to be creative, while addressing common core standards, but more importantly, many ways to see into the heart and mind of young black boy, that is at risk of being thrown away, feared, ignored or lost. 

Thank goodness the fabulous Ms. Woodson shows us a way to VABB our black boys, and our underserved, in this wonderful book.

Don’t walk...go get it.

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