A Long Walk to Water
By Linda Sue Park
My thoughts on this book:
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys from Sudan during the second Sudanese Civil War in 1985. The book also includes a separate narrative about a girl named Nya, which takes place in Sudan as well, but beginning in 2008. Throughout the book we learn about Nya and Salva’s circumstances and their struggles.
Salva’s story is harrowing. It’s during a normal school day in 1985 that shots are heard–the war has arrived in his village–and he’s forced to run into the bush for safety.
“Go quickly, all of you,” the teacher said, his voice low and urgent. “Into the bush. Do you hear me? Not home. Don’t run home. They will be going into the villages. Stay away from villages–run into the bush.”
He has no idea where he’s going; he only knows he must seek safety as far away from home as possible. Traveling with different groups of people, Salva is scared and surrounded by danger; there’s barely any food or water and he faces dangerous wild animals, the sweltering heat, and soldiers armed with guns. It’s hard to imagine the fear he must’ve felt being a child amongst strangers, separated from his family, and now in the wilderness. Years go by as he travels, settling into multiple refugee camps. Salva witnesses much death and wonders if he’ll ever find his family again.
Nya’s story begins in 2008 as she and her family struggles to locate fresh water. Nya spends most of the day traveling back and forth in the scorching heat to a pond to fetch water for her family. Members of her family and others have actually been sick from drinking contaminated water. Life is challenging without access to clean water and rather than go to school like other children her age, Nya has to spend most of her days just fetching water without much time for anything else. One day, Nya learns that something good is finally coming to their village: a new water well.
Honestly, I don’t remember hearing about Salva’s story before now. I ended up reading this book with my kids for their reading discussion group. We all loved the book, even though it’s frightening and even hard to read in a few parts. The book is written well, and what a page turner it is. The author did such a wonderful job weaving these two narratives together. We couldn’t put it down and kept asking ourselves: What’s going to happen to Salva? Is his family alive? How are these stories connected? Along with the two narratives, you also learn about the history of Sudan, the different tribes, a bit of culture, and their consistent struggle for clean water. It’s odd the things we humans take for granted. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever look at a glass of water the same again. By the end of the story I was in tears. This book is incredibly moving with a strong message for any age. It’s truly a book I recommend to everyone.
“Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting. Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.” –Salva Dut
I don’t want to spoil anything, but the extras at the end of the story had us doing research online afterward to learn more.
If you’d like to learn more about the Water for South Sudan project, you can find it at: https://www.waterforsouthsudan.org
- Age Range: 10 – 12 years
- Grade Level: 5 – 7
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547577311
- ISBN-13: 978-0547577319
The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy 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.
Thanks for reading my review! Feel free to share your thoughts below. I hope you all enjoy the book if you decide to read it.