A Long Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park (2010, Clarion Books)
This slender children’s book is based on the true story of Salva Dut, a young man who, in the 1990’s, was one of the hundreds of Sudanese “Lost Boys” who walked out of Ethiopia (where the government would not protect them) into Kenya, where many of the boys were subsequently adopted by American families and brought to safety. Author Linda Sue Park doesn’t gloss over the Sudanese conflict (the Second Sudanese Civil War) that forces Salva from his home and separates him from his family – with truly skillful writing, she does an admirable job of balancing the horrors of war and the suffering that Salva goes through with the driving hope that pushes him ever onward out of the pain. Alongside Salva’s story, she presents that of young Nya, a girl forced to walk all day, every day, to a distant pond, to gather enough water for her family to survive on. Nya doesn’t go to school; she merely walks, back and forth, TWICE a day, to the pond. How Nya and Salva’s stories finally intersect is a nice bit of work, and Nya’s daily journey makes a good contrast to the relatively comfortable, luxurious (and complacent) lives we lead in North America. This is an important book for children to read – and it may be even more important for adults.
Good Books and Good Wine gives a great review of this book from the “comfortable American” perspective.