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A Long Walk to Water

Based on a True Story
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park Intermediate, Middle School Clarion 121 pp. 11/10 978-0-547-25127-1 $16.00
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarThe long walk is actually two—two journeys that converge in Park's spare text, a novelization of how her friend Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, escaped his war-ravaged country and returned years later to help revitalize it by founding a company called Water for Sudan, Inc. In 1985, gunfire outside eleven-year-old Salva's schoolhouse drives him and his classmates from their village. Not knowing if his family is dead or alive, he eventually joins a refugee group heading east to Ethiopia. A tandem narrative follows another Sudanese eleven-year-old, Nya, in 2008, as she spends her days trudging to and from a murky pond to collect water for her family. After Salva reaches the Ethiopian refugee camp, the text feels rushed, skipping over his years at multiple camps ("Salva was almost seventeen years old now"; "Salva was now twenty-two years old") and, finally, in the United States. But the first half of the book offers a riveting account of his trek through bush and desert, facing starvation, finding his beloved uncle and losing him again to murderous thieves. Nya's story is also moving, as it illustrates the hardships of inaccessibility to clean drinking water and the wonder of receiving a village well—drilled by Salva's company. Nya is amazed to discover that what her community needed most had been right there, beneath their feet, all along. CHRISTINE M. HEPPERMANN
Gr 5-8 Salva and Nya have difficult paths to walk in life. Salva's journey, based on a true story, begins in 1985 with an explosion. The boy's small village in Sudan erupts into chaos while the 11-year-old is in school, and the teacher tells the children to run away. Salva leaves his family and all that is familiar and begins to walk. Sometimes he walks alone and sometimes there are others. They are walking toward a refugee camp in Ethiopia, toward perceived safety. However, the camp provides only temporary shelter from the violent political storm. In 1991-'92, thousands are killed as they try to cross a crocodile-infested river when they are forced out of the country; Salva survives and gets 1200 boys to safety in Kenya. Nya's life in 2008 revolves around water. She spends eight hours a day walking to and from a pond. In the dry season, her family must uproot themselves and relocate to the dry lake bed where they dig in the mud until water eventually trickles out. Nya's narrative frames Salva's journey from Sudan to Ethiopia to Rochester, NY, and, eventually, back to Sudan. Both story lines are spare, offering only pertinent details. In the case of Salva, six years in a camp pass by with the barest of mentions. This minimalism streamlines the plot, providing a clarity that could have easily become mired in depressing particulars. The two narratives intersect in a quiet conclusion that is filled with hope.-"Naphtali L. Faris, Saint Louis Public Library, MO" Copyright 2010 Media Source Inc.
Park presents a novelization of how Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, escaped his war-ravaged country and returned years later to found a company called Water for Sudan, Inc. A tandem narrative follows another Sudanese eleven-year-old, Nya, in 2008, as she trudges to and from a murky pond to collect water for her family. Park's spare text is riveting.

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