Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peace, Locomotion

Woodson, Jacqueline. 2010. Peace, Locomotion. Read by Dion Graham. Brilliance Audio.
(about 2 hours on CD, mp3 download, or Playaway)

Peace, Locomotion continues the story of Lonnie Collins Motion (or Locomotion) first begun in Locomotion.  After their parents perished in a fire, Lonnie and his sister, Lili were sent to separate foster homes. Years have passed.  Lonnie is now twelve and although they miss each other, both have settled in to their new homes.

Locomotion was a novel written in verse, as Lonnie learned the forms of poetry from a caring teacher.  Peace, Locomotion is an epistolary novel, consisting of letters from Lonnie to Lili as he  endeavors to chronicle his feelings, his memories of their earlier life together, and the daily occurrences of his new life.  He saves the letters in the hope that when he is someday reunited with Lili, he can relive and share with her each day that they were apart.  He struggles with the fact that his younger sister begins to call her foster mother, Momma, and can barely remember their parents.  One of his friends is moving away, his teacher is mean, and he does poorly on tests and homework.  At home, he has another problem.  One of his foster mother's sons is serving in the war (the listener does not know if it is the war in Afghanistan or Iraq) and things are not going well.  Lonnie is tempted to pray for Jenkins' safe return but his foster brother Rodney suggests that he pray for peace instead - explaining,  if peace comes, all things will follow.  In spite of the many obstacles that life has placed in Lonnie's path, he remains positive and thoughtful, never quick to draw conclusions or pass judgment. He finds joy in a church choir, a snowball fight, a good friend.  He is kind and wise beyond his years.  Although this is a story about African American families, it could be about any family in similar circumstances.  It is a story about hope and family and finding peace wherever one may.

The challenge of narrating a novel consisting of letters from only one person is a great one, and Dion Graham's reading rises to the test. He is superb. Graham perfectly captures the many moods of Lonnie Collins Motion with precision, never exaggeration.  The listener can hear a smile begin to spread across Lonnie's lips,  tears well up in his eyes, a sparkle light up his face. Lonnie recounts conversations within his letters, allowing Graham to create character voices of Lili, Lonnie's friends, and his foster family; but Locomotion is the star of this novel and all ears are upon him.  Highly recommended for middle grades.

Peace, Locomotion was named a 2010 Odyssey Honor Audiobook, and was named to ALSC's 2010 Notable Children's Recordings.

Listen to an excerpt here.

Penguin Young Readers offers a free downloadable discussion guide.

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