Monday, January 7, 2013

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

I asked a Sudanese boy, from a previous school I worked, if after graduation he planned to go back to Sudan. He said, "I don't know. You have many tribes in America and get along. You don't kill leader... even if you disagree." He was one of four "lost boys" that the school sponsored and this young man's story was one of resilience and courage. He lost an eye to an infection while walking across the desert and watched the bombing of his family's house - with them inside - leaving him an orphan. His story echoes that of Salva Dut Arrik, the true story of a young man who faced the horrors of Sudan's Civil War and the uncertainty of immigrating to another country.

Salva Dut Ariik was at school in 1989 when soldiers came shooting their rifles. He fled into the bush just before a bomb annihilated the school he occupied minutes earlier.  A group of people reluctantly let him travel with them, but after one night Salva woke to find the group, not wanting to be burdened by a young eleven-year-old, had left without telling him. Striking out on his own, he met his uncle by chance in another group. Mariel, a boy his age, was in the group as well, and the two became friends as they traveled to a refugee camp. After tragedies and violence, Salva found a new home in the United States.

Nya's story alternates with Salva's as she describes the daily hardship of finding water in 2008. She spends all day hauling water back and forth. The contaminated water caused dysentery in many and she could not go to school or her family would die of thirst. When Salva and her story connect it gave me a deeper appreciation for water and the opportunity to freely learn at school.

Written for grade 5 and up, the author doesn't make this tale too frightening or graphic but focuses on how Salva survives each day with courage. There are deaths and shooting, but only shots are heard by Salva or he sees blood on the ground. Only one episode describes a boy (not one Salva knew) who was shot in the neck during a frantic river crossing with soldiers shooting at refugees. The straightforward and simple writing helps to not overwhelm young readers emotions. This is a terrific tale of hope.

Reading Level 5.0
4 out of 5 Smileys

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