“Locomotion” by Jacqueline Woodson

This is a window into one of JW’s most magical short novels, a novel in verse, written as a series of poems, but poems that tell the story of Lonnie:

Lonnie’s mom and dad died in a fire. His little sister now lives with a rich family far away. Lonnie is with Miss Edna. Still living in Brooklyn, still going to school, writing poetry in Ms. Marcus’s class, trying to make sense of what has happened.  This excerpt is Lonnie remembering his mother–her voice and her story about him being born premature and nearly not making it, as she is cooking up a chicken:

“Mama cut the wing off the chicken, rinsed

it under the faucet, patted it dry–real gentle

like she was deep remembering.

So I  hoped and prayed and sat by that tiny 

baby every hour of every day for weeks

and more weeks. Doctors said it’s his lungs,

they’re just not ready for the world yet. Can’t

take a breath in. Can’t let one out. So I breathed

for you, trying to show you how, I

prayed to those lungs, Mama said. Grow!

The chicken was cut up, spiced up, dipped

in flour and ready to fry. mama touched each piece

still real gentle before she slipped it into the hot

oil. Then you were four pounds, five pounds, six pounds

bigger than this chicken. My big little baby boy

not even two months old and already

a survivor.” (p. 74)

 

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Jacqueline Woodson – Author of the Month

Jacqueline Woodson lives in Brooklyn and grew up in the South and then in Bushwick. She is a writer of books for all ages, and her touch is very profound. She is a writer that makes you cry for others, for yourself, for the world. She says on her website that she once wrote a book in two weeks; the next one took four years. My favorite book of hers is I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You. It reminded me of growing up in a place where there wasn’t much protection and friendship was the only stability there was. Here is a summary:

Marie and Lena are both motherless. Marie is black and well off. Lena is white and poor. And in the small town of Chauncey, Ohio blacks and whites don’t mix. But Lena and Marie become friends anyway. One of them has a terrible secret and the other must decide—Is it best to keep it? Or should she tell someone fast?

WHERE IT TAKES PLACE: In the small town of Chauncey, Ohio
WHERE I WROTE IT: Provincetown, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, New York.
WHY I WROTE IT: I wanted to write a novel about friendship and in it, I wanted to show how destructive racism and classism can be. I also wanted to write about the “secret” in the book—to say to young readers—”Don’t be afraid. You are not alone.”
AWARDS: Coretta Scott King

What is your favorite Jacqueline Woodson book? If you haven’t read her, I recommend I Hadn’t Meant to tell you This, Brown Girl Dreaming, Locomotion, and Beneath a Meth Moon.