Run, don’t walk, to read A Long Walk To Water
Title: A Long Walk To Water
Author: Linda Sue Park
Can fourth and fifth graders handle the injustice and heartbreak of being caught up in a civil war? Can they handle the hard truth about the lack of basics—food and water and healthcare—in South Sudan? Children can handle a lot if it’s presented to them in clear, unblinking simplicity and dignity. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is this profoundly beautiful and heartbreaking story.
Quite simply, this book can change the way you think about the world. A child, or a grown-up for that matter, will not be able to turn on the tap, or open the fridge, or sit bored in a classroom the same way again. Just read it.
This book is two stories woven together. The first, simpler story takes place in 2008 tells the tale of a young girl, Nya, who spends her whole life seeking water for her family. Every day, she gets up in the morning, walks two hours to the watering hole. Fills her tub up with muddy water, then walks two hours back home. She remains home long enough to eat a little something and transfer the water to her mom. Then she gets back on the desert trail and walks back to the watering hole. Her sister gets sick from the poor water. Her family is barely subsisting. Then, something happens. People come to the village and dig a well. With this simple act of charity and technology, her life opens up.
The other story tells the tale of a boy, Salva, and it takes place twenty years earlier. Salva is caught up in the civil war in Sudan. While he’s at school, a battle destroys his family’s homestead. He has to take off into the bush. To survive, he walks with strangers across his country, to Ethiopia and Kenya. What happens to him is heartbreaking. I started crying on about page 78 and the tears flowed for almost the rest of the book. What happens to Salva? Let’s list a few things. He loses is family, is abandoned by his companions, his best friend gets eaten by a lion, the uncle who takes him under his wing is killed, he’s forced by rebels to run into an alligator-infested river, then is almost drowned by another person in the river, then shot at. How does he survive? With a humble and calm determination.
I won't give away the most amazing part of hte book, which is the way the two stories are interconnected. It’s truly inspiring.
And it’s based on a true story.
Linda Sue Park is a Newbery award-winning author. The praise for her clean and simple style is fully deserved. Recommended for mature fourth graders and everyone, I mean everyone, from that grade up.