Do you ever think about how lucky you are to have running water in your home? I realize that this is not everyone, but an overwhelming majority of Americans have fresh, clean water to drink in their homes. This is not something I think about often, but I probably should. After reading A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, I was reminded just how lucky I am. This story follows a young girl in Sudan, whose job it is to walk every day to the nearest source of water. Hours there and back, sometimes twice a day. It consumes her life. She thinks only of the time of the year where her family will relocate, and live closer to water so that she won’t be making these long, daily trips. And for her sister to get a little older, so then the job will be passed down to her.
The story goes back and forth between this young girl named Nya, and a young boy named Salva. Although they live in different times, they both are from Sudan. Sudan has historically been a unstable, and that becomes a major disrupter in Salva’s life. He is able to escape conflict after his school, home, and family are destroyed, but then is alone. He becomes one of the lost boys of Sudan. He walks and walks for days – weeks even, to get to a safe place.
The story was written by Linda Sue Park, a past Newberry Medalist winner. After reading this, I was wondering why she hadn’t won again for this book. This is such an important story, especially one for a young audience. Salva and Nya are about the same age as Park’s target audience, making it easy for readers to relate to the characters. To put myself (or any reader) in those shoes is unimaginable.
Salva’s journey is hearbreaking, one that no one should have to make – regardless of age. There is saving, there is healing in this story though. What eventually happened to the Lost Boys was not enough to make up for the loss of the many many lives that were ruined or lost. He eventually makes his way to the states, to New York, where he is fostered by a family. He meets Linda Sue Park, who retells his life story in this book. **Spoiler Alert**, he does make his way back to Africa to see his father, after years of searching for family members. Not everyone was that lucky though, this part of his story is unique. This is such a great story, and so inspiring to young readers. Salva experienced the unthinkable, and yet at the end of the story, he returns to Africa a survivor, and was determined to make changes. He now works with Water for Sudan, which is committed to providing fresh water to people in rural Sudan.