One of the things I love about reading is that a good book can take you to another time and place. Linda Sue Park transports you to the same place–Sudan–and two different times in her book A Long Walk to Water (Clarion Books 2010). I can’t wait to share this Young Hoosier book with omy students this year. I know our librarian read it aloud to her 7th grade social studies class last spring, and they were hanging on the edge of their seats as they listened.
Two narrators tell their story of walking through war-torn Sudan. Nya, in 2008, spends her days walking through the heat to bring back water to her village. She makes the trek twice each day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There is not time for anything else in her days. Salva, in 1985, is walking, too. He is walking away from his destroyed village to find safety from the soldiers that would either kill him or force him to fight. One step after another, his walking leads him across borders to Ethiopia to Kenya to the United States to back home again. When their two paths cross, two lives might be changed.
Even more inspiring that the story alone is the fact that it is based on the true story of the life of Salva Dut, who came to the United States as one of the first “Lost Boys” from Sudan. He went back to Sudan to find a way to help and founded Water for South Sudan to drill wells for villages like Nya’s. A well that provides clean, safe drinking water can transform the opportunities for an entire village and the surrounding countryside. I can’t imagine just surviving the things that Salva endured in his childhood. Salva did not just endure, he triumphed and returned to give back. After the story, Salva writes a message of hope that he wants to share with young people. It ends with these powerful words of encouragement:
“I overcame all the difficult situations of my past because of the hope and perseverance that I had. I would have not made it without these two things. To young people, I would like to say: Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting. Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.”
Here is Linda Sue Park and Salva Dut discussing the true story behind the book: