Monday, March 28, 2011

"A Long Walk to Water" by Linda Sue Park

"A Long Walk to Water" by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours' walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya's in an astonishing and moving way.

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My thoughts...

A Long Walk to Water is based on the true story of Salva, one of a group of Sudanese "Lost Boys" who eventually emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990's. Park's account of Salva's life begins in 1985, when Salva is eleven years old. Things were good for Salva's family before the civil war; his family was affluent, with many heads of cattle, and could afford to send each of their sons to school. But because Salva's at school when the war comes to his village, he is separated from the rest of his family, and begins a long and brutal journey by foot to safety. Meeting up with members of his Dinka tribe, he joins their group, walking east toward Ethiopia.

During the journey, he must confront hungry lions, scarce water, crossing the Nile in hand-made canoes, swarms of mosquitos, and the most difficult part of their journey: crossing the unforgiving Akobo desert. He spends six years in the Ethiopian refugee camp, before their government decides to close the camp, driving the residents with guns out of the camp and across the Gilo River, well known for its crocodiles. Miraculously surviving the crossing, Salva makes up his mind to walk to Kenya--and becomes the de facto leader of a group of about 1,500 boys, some as young as five. More than 1,200 arrived safely in Kenya, including Salva. He led 1500 "Lost Boys" hundreds of miles through the Southern Sudan desert to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
While in Kenya, Salva learns to read and speak English from an Irish aid worker, and eventually is chosen to be part of a special initiative to airlift over 3,000 boys and young men to America. Resettled in Rochester, New York, Salva goes on to found Water for Sudan, a non-profit which brings clean water to the parched regions of the south of his country.

Alternating with Salva's story, Park weaves in the story of a contemporary girl in Sudan, Nya (a fictional character), who must walk for eight hours each day to fetch water for her family, water which sometimes is contaminated and bears diseases. The two stories don't seem to parallel until the end, at which point they meet in a lovely ending - bringing hope, clean water, and education to Nya's village.

This slim but unforgettable book (120 pages) tells Salva and Nya's stories in a spare style, with no wasted words or descriptions. Like many stories about Holocaust victims, this book celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit, capable of maintaining hope and finally triumphing over incredible adversity. It's a story you won't quickly be able to forget, and I would highly recommend it for adults, teens, and children over the age of ten. Park includes an afterword by Salva Dut himself which provides some information on his project, Water for Sudan, and an author's note with additional historical background on the civil war in Sudan. 

I just couldn't imagine not having food or water for days at a time. This book truly makes you thankful for the family you have, the roof over your head, the clean water that you drink and just about everything in your life. It really made me stop and think about all of the things that I take for granted...that many people take for granted.

We often take for granted the faucets and pools that we have, and this eye-opening, well-written book would be a great class exercise as well as a reminder for adults. The views between Nya and Salva do get a bit confusing, but they are easily labeled and each could be a student lesson for late elementary to early middle-school students.

To learn more about the book click hereYou can purchase this book on Amazon (available November 2010). 

Thank You so much Net Galley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion) for allowing me to read this book! I cannot wait to read more books from you in the future!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Net Galley review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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