“One step at a time, one day at a time, just today, just this day to get through.” ― Linda Sue Park,
A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.
Over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve read A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park with my 6th grade students. At just 116 pages, A Long Walk To Water was a book I picked up because Jenn raved about it when she read it with her classes.
The other benefit is that it addresses real world issues that many of my 6th graders never even think about (walking eight hours a day for water was absolutely mind boggling for them).
Like a good teacher, I read the book before reading it with my class and I was astounded by it. It’s rare, as a teacher, to find a book that you can read the same three chapters six times in a single day and not tire of it.
Even more intriguing about this book is the two narratives going on at once — one takes place from 1985 to present and the other is taking place throughout 2008 and 2009. Based on a true story, Salva, who is first shown in 1985, captures your attention from the beginning of the book as he daydreams about spending time with his brothers after school. Nya is about the same age as Salva when we first meet him, except readers are met with her on her walk to water and the constant struggle she faces on her journey in 2008.
I’ve talked so much this year about reading beyond my comfort level and I’ve been really proud of the effort I’ve made, but I can honestly say that reading Salva Dut Ariik’s story was eye opening.
Park does an amazing job telling Salva’s story. She brings the reader in and makes you feel the same fears and joys that Salva feels. Even more, knowing that it based on a true story adds to that.
A Long Walk To Water is easily a 5-star read. It’s short and impactful and lays bare the truth about an area that not many people pay very close attention to.
Have you read A Long Walk To Water? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you would read it now?