Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water introduces the reader to two eleven-year-old’s from Sudan, Salva and Nya. The story is primarily about Salva, a real-life Sudanese Lost Boy and his struggle to survive after the second Sudanese Civil War lands outside of the doors of his school in the 1980s. Nya’s story comes in smaller bits, explaining what it is like to live in Sudan today, in the aftermath of the civil war. Park was able to accomplish a remarkable feat in this novel, taking a hard to understand, emotionally charged story, and making it relateable and digestible for middle grade readers.
That isn’t to say that this book isn’t emotionally challenging, because it is. Salva saw most people that he loves die, and understanding war, death, and famine are hard concepts for adults, let alone children. But Park laces this brief little book with hope and kindness. Nya’s story gives readers a vision of the hope of the future, showing that a program called Water for South Sudan is helping change the lives of the Sudanese people, providing safe drinking water for entire communities which helps free up time for school and community growth.