Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time

Clarion. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328781338.
Gr 1-4–Nya lives in a village in South Sudan without easy access to clean water. With her younger sister Akeer, she sets out on the long trek to the water hole. Akeer is unusually slow and out of temper. As Nya finally reaches the water, she realizes that her sister is frighteningly ill. Far from the village, Nya has no choice but to carry both the water and her sister to find help. The weight is a burden Nya can barely manage, but she fights through the fatigue with small goals—making it to a thorn bush and then a stump—anything to keep herself going. Nya demonstrates extraordinary strength and perseverance in the face of daunting challenges. The story concludes with Nya’s family setting off in search of medical attention, which may feel like a cliff-hanger to some readers. However, an epilogue assures young readers of Akeer’s recovery while also explaining the humanitarian efforts of a nonprofit organization called Water for South Sudan. This isn’t the first time Nya’s experiences have been put to the page. She was a feature character in the author’s middle grade novel A Long Walk to Water. As this new picture book companion lacks the depth of detail included in the novel, younger children may benefit from additional discussion regarding the geography, culture, and socioeconomic conditions of South Sudan. Regardless, many children will realize (likely for the first time) that not all children have access to such basic necessities as clean drinking water. The illustrations beautifully capture life in a small South Sudanese village and earth-toned swirls create a lovely impression of dust and heat.
VERDICT A thought-provoking story to inspire empathy and social consciousness.

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