When we first started reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, my children and I were rather confused. Throughout the book, Park weaves together the stories of two children who grew up in Sudan. One story starts in 2008, the other starts in 1985.
In 2008, Nya walks to the pond twice a day. It takes her two hours to walk there, and two hours to walk home, carrying the water her family needs to survive. She eats lunch, then heads off again for the pond.
In 1985, Salva is trying to pay attention to his teacher when suddenly gunshots ring out and he is forced to run, run, run into the bush, not knowing where he is going. Not knowing where if his family escaped the fighting, if he will ever see them again.
At several points in this book, my 11-year-old had to start reading aloud for me, because I was so choked up by the emotion of the moment, I couldn’t continue.
Park based this book on real people, real events, and real pain. It really opened our eyes to the life some people are forced to live because of war, famine and drought. And we celebrated with Nya when she realized she could attend school instead of walking for eight hours each day.
Highly recommended for ages 8 and up.
Parents of emotionally-sensitive children: Park writes masterfully about the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, the raids, the killings, the horrors. She makes it real without it being gory. However, be sensitive to whether your child is ready to read this book, since it includes such elements, and a young boy separated from his parents. Also, be aware that Salva finds an uncle and travels with him until raiders find them and kill his uncle.