Monday, January 10, 2011

A Long Walk to Water

by Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books, 2010. 128 pages. Fiction.

"A Long Walk to Water" is an amazing book. It is based on the true story of Salvo, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, whose stories have been told for older readers, but rarely for children. Park does a masterful job of making a heartbreaking, violent and horrifying story accessible and appropriate for 10-12 year olds. She tells Salvo's story simply and clearly, focusing on his courage and his ultimate triumph.

As an 11 year old Sudanese boy, Salvo is suddenly plunged into the middle of a brutal civil war. He is sitting at his desk in school when there is the sound of gunfire. His teacher immediately urges the boys to run--not home, but "into the bush...They will be going into the villages. Stay away from the villages--run into the bush." Obeying his teacher most likely saved his life, but Salvo spent the next eleven years walking, running, and surviving. At 22, Salvo is chosen to come to America, where his life changes dramatically. He is able to go to school and fulfil his dream of helping the people in Sudan.

Throughout the book, Park interweaves the story of Nya, who also lives in Sudan, but 20 years later. Twice every day, Nya walks to get water for her family. She starts early in the morning, gets home about noon, and then sets off for the second time, getting home in the evening. This is her entire day, every day, during the seven months of the dry season. When Salvo and Nya's stories finally intersect, it is gratifying and inspiring to see what one person can do with hope and perseverance.

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