There’s no beating around the bush: this is a lovely little book, beautiful in its simplicity, a book full of characters and themes that I will be thinking about for a long time.
It’s a sequel, but it works quite well on its own. The book is a series of letters from Lonnie — a.k.a. Locomotion — to his younger sister Lili. They’ve been put in different foster homes after a fire killed their parents. The loss is still there, at least for Locomotion, and he’s made it his “job” to help Lili not forget their parents. But that’s not all in his life. He likes his foster mother and one of his foster brothers. His other foster brother, whom he’s never met, is away in the Army, fighting. It’s a nondescript war — it could be either Vietnam or Iraq; one of the things that really stands out is how timeless this book is — but the fact that this boy, someone who didn’t like fighting at all when he was younger, is away doing these things strikes Locomotion as really unfair. And, after talking, he decides to pray for peace. But then, he realizes that peace isn’t just something big, something grand: it’s in the little things as well.
It’s a book full of simple things, everyday things — like crocuses and good homecooked meals and solving a math problem — but in those things, happiness and peace are found. Woodson is a powerful writer, evoking images with the barest of words. She captures Locomotion’s voice perfectly, but she does more than that: Even though we rarely “hear” them, I feel like I knew the other characters in the book, from Locomotion’s sister Lili to his older foster brothers Rodney and Jenkins. It’s a perfect example of showing rather than telling: there were very few descriptions, yet I had a perfect picture of everyone.