Monday, June 6, 2011

A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park

Sometimes I like to feature books from a specific author, mainly because they are someone I've just discovered and am really keen on. That someone this time around is author, Linda Sue Park, an American children's author. Linda Sue Park is the duaghter of Korean immigrants and was born in Urbana, Illinois. A Stanford graduate in English, she began writing as a young child and published her first children's book in 1999. A Long Walk To Water is the first of two books I will be featuring on my blog. You can check out more about Linda Sue at

A Long Walk To Water tells the grief-ridden story of life in Sudan during the last 30 years. Sudan, the largest country in Africa was beset by civil war beginning in 1983. Although there were trivial conflicts, the civil war essentially involved a conflict between predominantly Muslim northern Sudan and the Christian/African southern part of the country.
Impressed onto the conflict was the struggle in the daily lives of the Sudanese to obtain what we in North America, take for granted, the necessities of life - food and water.

Linda Sue Park tells the story of Sudan in two voices almost 25 years apart. Salva Mawien Dut Ariik is the voice of Sudan's past, enduring a breathless, fearful flight from school near his village of Loan-Ariik, in the wake of fighting in 1985. As a young boy, he along with other boys and men must flee because they are in danger of being forced to fight in the war. With thousands of other Sudanese refugees, Salva treks miles through the southern Sudanese wilderness to refugee camps in Ethiopia. His journey means crossing the Nile River and the Akobo Desert. By the time he reaches Ethiopia, as far as Salva knows, he is utterly alone in the world. He spends the rest of his youth and early adulthood in various refugee camps before he is selected to emigrate to Rochester, New York where he is taken in by Chris and Louise Moore and their family. He is one of the Lost Boys - boys who had lost their homes and families because of the war and had wandered about for many months or years. With the loving support of the Moore family, Salva gets an education and eventually is able to return to Sudan to help his country.

Set against Salva's narrative is that of a young Nya who has to walk every day for miles to get dirty water for her family. It is during the rainy season in the Sudan, 2008.
Home for just long enough to eat, Nya would not make her second trip to the pong. To the pond and back --to the pond and back --nearly a full day of walking altogether. This was Nya's daily routine seven months of the year.
Daily. Every single day.

During the dry season, Nya's family must move to the big lake, because the pond dries up. Nya, whose family is from the Nuer tribe, does not live near the lake year round because the land is settled by the rival Dinka tribe. The dirty water is full of organisms that make her younger sister, Akeer sick as well as many others.

These two stories are told in chapter form with Nya's story first in colored text, followed by Salva's. Salva and Nya's stories converge in a most unexpected and fulfilling manner when Salva returns to his native Sudan to drill wells for water.

Linda Sue Park has written a beautiful short story about a heartbreaking situation in the third world. It's a terrible thing to know that people in 2008 have to dig in the mud to get water in order to survive. It's a terrible thing to know that war and constant strife prevent entire countries from working together to achieve even a basic standard of living. Salva Dut decided to do something about the lack of clean water in Sudan.

Here is Salva Dut talking about his life and his project:

You can also check out his organization's website, Water for Sudan.

And there is also a PBS special on the Salva Dut and Sudan:

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

A Long Walk to Water also has a map at the front to familiarize readers with the geography of Salva Dut's journey and the there is an Author's Note at the back as well as a Message from Salva Dut. I highly recommend this book.

Book Details:
A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park
New York: Clarion Books 2010

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