Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
This novel is based on the true story of Salva Dut . At 11 yrs old Salva was one of many Sudanese to lose his family, and home because of the religious conflict between North and South Sudan. Salva is in school when the villages are attacked. All the boys are told to run into the bush and far from home. Salva finds himself walking with strangers. He doesn't know where his family is or if they are alive.

Before Salva was one of 3,000 Sudanese young men chosen to come to America, he lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. The author succeeds in the telling of Salva's journey.

The novel alternates between Salva's journey beginning in 1985 and Nya, a fictional Sudanese character in 2008. Nya's job is to collect water for her family. I believe approaching the story in this matter was a trade off.

With Nya's story readers can see what Salva's foundation Water for Sudan, means for the people of that country. The author could have simply mentioned Water for Sudan in the Afterword but incorporating it in the story will have a great impact on the reader.

I know in some countries getting clean water is not easy but I still have a hard time believing this sad truth. Before a new well is unearthed in Nya's village. she spends hours getting water, that's not always clean. Though Nya is a fictional character hearing her story will make what many go through that much more real.

Now, the trade off, going back and forth between the two stories, kept me from truly connecting with Salve or Nya. I still enjoyed A Long Water to Water. I like that Park doesn't assume readers will have prior knowledge of the religious conflict that lead to the Lost Boys of Sudan. Park also explains were the name Lost Boys of Sudan came from.

I have much respect for Park's straightforward telling. Sometimes with refugee stories authors are inclined to go with the more violence the better approach. I really liked that Park simply focused on Salva's journey.

In the back of A Long Walk to Water there's a message from Salva Dut. There are a lot of books on the Lost Boys of Sudan, though as far as I know this is the first one for middle graders.

This might go nicely with the picture book Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams illus. by R. Greogry Christie

Linda Sue Park's Publishers Weekly Q&A

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