Linda Sue Park,
A Long Walk to Water
Clarion Books, 2010.
Newbery Award winner (A Single Shard, 2002) Linda Sue Park bases A Long Walk to Water on the life of a family friend, Sudan native Salva Dut. His travails bring alive the plight of those forced to flee war in Africa’s largest country (also tenth largest in the world).
In 1985, Dut, son of a prosperous village family, was sent scurrying into the bush when conflict between southern rebels and the northern Muslim government reached his school in southern Sudan. Over ten years, the boy walked many hundreds of miles seeking safety. He saw his uncle assassinated and believed himself the only survivor of his family. Along with the many other “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Dut spent years in desperately overcrowded Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps. In 1996, when a Rochester, N.Y., family took him in, he resumed his education. Park, who also lives in Rochester, met him there.
In tandem with Dut’s horrific story, Park introduces Nya, a fictional young girl from another southern Sudan tribe who makes two long trips every day to get water for her family. By 2008, when Park begins Nya’s story, the pond water is drying up and making people sick. Then some strangers come to her village to help them dig a well right in her own village, “halfway between the two largest trees.” Once fresh water is available, villagers build a school and Nya begins her education.
The two stories converge when the tall, kind man heading the well-building team introduces himself to Nya as Salva Dut, founder of the Water For Sudan project. Dut now spends half the year drilling wells in southern Sudan and half fundraising in the U.S.
The inside back dust jacket pictures Park and Dut together. A map shows Dut’s arduous route to safety. An author’s note explains that during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), “millions of people were killed, imprisoned, tortured, kidnapped, or enslaved”, that “hundreds of thousands of… Lost Boys… walked in desperation…in search of safe haven.” The fragile 2002 peace accord did not include Darfour.
A personal message from Dut expresses his gratitude and advises, “Stay calm when things are hard… [q]uitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.” A Long Walk to Water is a deeply moving book that will inform and inspire young readers.