But that was before everything changed.
In Locomotion, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of an eleven year old boy who is grieving the loss of his parents in a fire some four years earlier. He's also lost his home, his sense of belonging and his little sister.
Told in verse, Locomotion is presented as a series of poems that Lonnie Collins Motion writes at school. As he experiments with form we gradually find out more about his past in haiku, free verse and even a sonnet. We get the impression that the poems are the first chance Lonnie has had to express his feelings of loss and his enduring love for his parents. At times he's required to write about subjects or memories that are painful, and he does so in a voice that is entirely believable as that of an eleven year old boy.
As you would expect, Lonnie's story is at times a heartbreaking one. There were definitely moments when my eyes misted up, especially in Lonnie's brave and tender interactions with his little sister Lili, who has been fostered into a different family. However, it's also an uplifting journey. Through self-expression Lonnie realises he has a place in this world and takes his first steps forward.
I'm not sure why verse novels lend themselves so well to the exploration of loss, but in the case of Locomotion it works perfectly. There's no melodrama, no unneccesary detail, and not a single wasted word. Every poem counts. For readers who aren't usually big on poetry, Locomotion provides a perfect opportunity to discover - or rediscover - an appreciation for the form. This is accessible verse, full of meaning and emotion and urgency. In the space of a hundred or so pages Jacqueline Woodson gives us Lonnie's complete journey from grief and isolation to a newfound sense of hope and belonging. It's a beautiful book, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.