Collins Motion (Locomotion), is only eleven years old but has lived through unbearable loss and grief. His parents are killed in a house fire leaving Lonnie and his younger sister, Lili,
to be taken in by various church people and then on to foster care from there. His
life is revealed through a series of poems he writes in his fifth grade classroom. These
poems are sometimes funny and sometimes achingly painful.
Ms. Marcus, his sensitive 5th grade teacher, encourages Lonnie to write down his thoughts "before it leaves
your brain". Lonnie's voice rings clear as he recollects memories of being
a family, his friendships, his deep love for his sister, Lili, who has been adopted by a family, and his growing awareness
of his foster mother's kindness and care towards him.
Choosing to write in free verse (except when his class assignment explores a different form of poetry), Lonnie reveals
his life before the tragedy four years ago and his thoughts since. Placed in
a group home, he writes about the "monsters that come at night...looking like regular boys...steal your bacon. The Throwaway Boys. You one of us now".
His reflections return again and again to the pain of separation from his sister who has been adopted by a family and
his determination to one day be a part of a family again. The reader will see
through Lonnie's eyes and into his heart, when he remembers snippets about his mother, writes an epistle poem to his father,
and contemplates the differences in the black vs. white world. He describes
a TV commercial where the white lady makes dinner for her husband. Do they eat
the food or just throw it away? His teacher asks why he mentions "white" lady. Lonnie says of his teacher, "she don't understand some things". You turn on the TV and that's what you see, mostly white people with a whole lot of stuff.
This sensitive novel-in-verse has received many honors including finalist for the 2003 National Book Award, Young People's
Literature; Honor book for the 2004 Coretta Scott King Author Award; and Honor book for the 2003 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award,
fiction category, (Barnes & Noble). The writing allows the reader to "know"
Lonnie's family and friends. You feel this young black boy's inner turmoil in coming to terms with his situation and
the world around him. Ms. Woodson "places characters in nearly unbearable circumstances,
then lets incredible human resiliency shine through" (SLJ 2003).