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. (goodreads summary)
Based on a true story, one moment will change this 11 year old boys life forever. In 1985, Salva's village is suddenly attacked by rebel soldiers while he is at school and instructed by his teachers to run away into the bush. Alone with no family, this is Salva's story of his fight for survival, courage and hope while he makes his way to Ethiopia to a refugee camp. He must withstand hunger, thirst, fear and loneliness during his years of travelling. After being forced to leave Ethiopia, with determination he leads a group of boys to Kenya which later takes him to his final journey to America. Nya is a fictional girl from a village in the present time who walks hours daily for water for her family. Her family faces disease and illness from the contaminated water source.
Even though this book is small with only 120 pages it will leave a big impact on its reader. It is an incredible story of a boy who has lost so much and is forced to survive on his own at such a young age. I was in awe of Salva's courage and hope from the beginning to go on. With every sense of loss, Salva took more strength from it. I found the book to be beautifully written and deeply moving. Although the author toned them down, some depictions were vividly described but not too graphic. For example, the crocodiles in the river as people were forced to cross and the gunshots from the soldiers overhead at the same time. It definitely added to the imagery and sorrow I felt while I was reading. I also liked how the two characters of Salva and Nya paralleled in the chapters and gave me two different but connecting stories to follow to the end. I also found a connection between the title and storyline. I learned so much about the civil war in Sudan and the devastating toll it took on millions of lives. Both stories ended with a positive outcome and I really took in reading about Salva's past, present and what his future has in store. Salva adds a note in the end where he states a very inspirational quote about perseverance to young people. I think this would be a "just right book" for grades 6-9. ~
Title: A Long Walk to Water
Author: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: November 2010, Clarion Books
Hardcover, 120 pgs.