Woodson, J. (2003). Locomotion. New York: SPEAK.
Locomotion consists of the poems written by eleven-year-old Lonnie, who is living in a foster home, separated from his sister. Through his poems, Lonnie works to rediscover his voice, his home and his family.
Also central to Lonnie’s story is his relationship with his teacher, Ms. Marcus. Since she is a white teacher working in a predominantly black urban school, a teacher could introduce a discussion of race, stereotypes, whiteness and issues of power.
Other issues present include subtle discussions of the Iraq War as well as initial exploration of faith in God.
Activities to do with the book:
Since Lonnie’s poems reference the work of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, this National Book Award finalist lends itself to discussions of poets and writing. Lonnie often makes comments about the structures of his poems and would be a great entry point for a teacher to discuss poetic forms.
One of Lonnie’s classmates has Sickle Cell Anemia, so the book could be used to trigger a discussion of genetics. Also, while announcing that Sickle Cell Anemia affects African American, Woodson points out that a white teacher is saying this to a predominantly black class, so this could also lead to an early discussion of race and power relations within the classroom environment and beyond.
“…the ideas in my
head go out like a candle and all you see left is this little
string of smoke that disappears real quick
before I even have a change to find out
what it’s trying to say” (p. 1).
“Outside it’s starting to rain and the way the rain comes
down—tap, tapping against the window—gets me to
thinking. Ms. Marcus don’t understand some things
even though she’s my favorite teacher in the world.
Things like my brown, brown arm” (p. 12-13).
“Up here the sky goes on and on like something
you could fall right up into.
And keep falling.
Fall so fast
and so far
and for so long you don’t
have to worry about where you’re gonna live next,
where you gonna be
if somebody all of a sudden
changes their mind about living with you” (p. 25).