Title: A Long Walk to Water
Author: Linda Sue Park
Major Themes: 20th century, 21st century, Africa, Sudan, Historical Fiction, Survival Fiction, Children’s Books
Synopsis: Sudan, one war-torn land. Two stories of young people in need. One lack: water.
I’m looking forward to letting my brothers hear this story. There aren’t many books about Sudan, and although we all know there has been quite a few conflicts in the country it’s more of a statistic than an actual happening. This story brought the civil war in 1985 (and since then as well) to life.
A Long Walk to Water follows two young people’s lives.
Nya is an eleven-year-old in 2008 who spends every day taking a walk to the nearest source of water to get two containers full of water for her family. Each day, she can only haul two container’s worth, because it takes half a day to go there and get back. Then, her younger sister gets sick from infected water. When they are told they must give her only clean water, the family believe it is impossible…but if she doesn’t get it, she will get sick again and die.
Salva is also an eleven-year-old, but he lives in 1985. When war comes to his village, he has to flee into the bush to escape being caught by the armed forces. Along with other refugees he meets along the way, they tramp through deserts and lion-infested areas, always going away from the army. He hears nothing of his family, and fears that they had all been killed by rebel soldiers. At times, he almost dies from exhaustion, hunger, and thirst, but always he goes on. But when his closest friend dies, will he be able to go on?
I love this book because it helped me see how the Sudanese civil war has affected lives dramatically. Hearing statistics does nothing to us. But when we read about how it affects individuals, we can suddenly understand. Normal families changed forever. Families split up, children being lost when they fled the fighting, becoming one more body in the thousands of homeless people inhabiting the refugee camps. Parents and children suffering and dying because they need clean water to drink and can’t get it for one reason or another. Together, the tales of two young people combine, and we get a clear view of the pains of living in that kind of an area.
WARNING: Some parts of the story are scary, but almost everyone will be fine with it. There are a couple deaths and other related things in the narrative, but they aren’t described fully.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12