Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sue Park
Published by: Clarion Books
Form: Text for School
Big Themes: True Story, War, Refugees, Water, Family, Disease, Leadership
This book is a dual narrative about two children in Sudan: a boy named Salva in 1985 and a girl named Nya in 2008. When civil war reaches Salva’s home, he is separated from his family when he must run for his life. Salva walks thousands of miles as a refugee, and most of the book chronicles the true story of his grueling travels. Nya’s story reveals the state of current life in Sudan in 2008. While violent and heartbreaking to think of what these children have endured, the ending of this book is hopeful and inspiring.
My students LOVED this book. The book we read previously was Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, which is hilarious and has tons of kid appeal. But most students said they liked A Long Walk to Water better, despite it being a much more serious book. I had students getting upset when I’d announce that we were done reading for today, and many students would sneakily read ahead. I’ve never had students so engaged in a book before. They couldn’t believe it was a true story and loved seeing videos of the real Salva when we were finished reading.
You could easily read this book in just a couple of hours. I read the first two chapters one night, and when I sat down the next night to read a little more… I ended up finishing the entire book instead! The story is gripping, especially knowing it is a true story. But it’s also a slim book at 128 pages. If you need a quick, but worthwhile read, definitely check this one out.
The dual narratives do a beautiful job of accentuating certain themes in the book and drawing parallels between Salva and Nya’s lives. I don’t want to spoil the book’s ending, but the ending is wonderful in how it connects the two narratives. (My students LOVED the ending.)
Educational and a Reminder of How Lucky We Are:
I didn’t know anything about the country of Sudan before reading this book, and now my ears perk up whenever I hear mention of it in the news. I have a better understanding of this region of the world now.
This book is also a great reminder of things we take for granted here in the United States, especially water. We are so incredibly lucky to have access to clean water from the tap inside our homes. I’ve taken to drinking less bottled water and more tap water since finishing this book. There’s really nothing wrong with tap water where I live, and it’s much better for the environment for me to drink from the tap.
This is an excellent book for ages 11 and up (due to some violence). This amazing true story will leave you inspired. I give it 4 and a half stars.