A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

by Linda Sue Park

Ages: 10 – 14 years (approximately grades 4-9)

A young boy, Salva, who lives in Sudan in the 1980’s is lucky to have enough water to drink and to be able to attend school in the city. His world is shattered one day when fighting erupts while he is in class in the city, far from his family’s village, and is forced to leave everything familiar to walk to safety. But where is safety and how long will it take to get there? Both of these are questions that Salva and his ever-changing companions have no answers to for years on end. Contrast Salva’s life as a “Lost Boy” to a young Sudanese girl, named Nya’s, in 2008. Nya must spend all day every day walking miles to and from a water hole to bring the precious resource to her family. Even with Nya’s hard work and sacrifice, the very unfiltered water that gives her village life also cripples it with disease and inability to make life easier by moving away from the water source. These two stories, both based on true events, one day merge to find a satisfying and hopeful ending, with Salva as an educated young man who survives his hardship and finds a way to help his homeland and Nya as a recipient of Salva’s hard work who is suddenly able to give up her water jug and attend school.

Although stories of a "Lost Boy" and the Sudanese struggle has been told many times over in today's juvenile fiction, this  2015 Caudill Nominee has a certain potent gravity that is felt by readers instantaneously. Between the truth behind the tale (as established in a letter from Salva himself in the book’s conclusion) and Linda Sue Park’s sparse narrative of the alternating viewpoints, this quick read gets straight to the point and hangs on tightly through both Salva and Nya’s journeys to their ultimate destinations. I predominantly listened to this title on audiobook, and believe that traditional African drum music used between chapters and the authenticity of the readers’ accents drew me into the story and helped me to feel compassion for the characters. Use the audiobook alone, as a companion to the print, or as a follow up to reading the book to experience another level of Linda Sue Park’s amazing tale. This title is best suited for readers ages ten to fourteen years old who have a keen sense of compassion, want experience first-hand accounts of the world and/or foreign wars, or budding environmentalists who want to see the narrative importance of water as a natural resource. Due to its brevity in length yet hard-hitting issues, this title is also great for group book discussions or classroom read-alouds.

Find A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story as a book or audiobook CD in our catalog.

 
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