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A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story Hardcover – November 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8–Salva and Nya have difficult paths to walk in life. Salva's journey, based on a true story, begins in 1985 with an explosion. The boy's small village in Sudan erupts into chaos while the 11-year-old is in school, and the teacher tells the children to run away. Salva leaves his family and all that is familiar and begins to walk. Sometimes he walks alone and sometimes there are others. They are walking toward a refugee camp in Ethiopia, toward perceived safety. However, the camp provides only temporary shelter from the violent political storm. In 1991-'92, thousands are killed as they try to cross a crocodile-infested river when they are forced out of the country; Salva survives and gets 1200 boys to safety in Kenya. Nya's life in 2008 revolves around water. She spends eight hours a day walking to and from a pond. In the dry season, her family must uproot themselves and relocate to the dry lake bed where they dig in the mud until water eventually trickles out. Nya's narrative frames Salva's journey from Sudan to Ethiopia to Rochester, NY, and, eventually, back to Sudan. Both story lines are spare, offering only pertinent details. In the case of Salva, six years in a camp pass by with the barest of mentions. This minimalism streamlines the plot, providing a clarity that could have easily become mired in depressing particulars. The two narratives intersect in a quiet conclusion that is filled with hope.–Naphtali L. Faris, Saint Louis Public Library, MOα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After 11-year-old Salva’s school in Sudan is attacked by brutal rebel soldiers in 1985, he describes several terrifying years on the run in visceral detail: “The rain, the mad current, the bullets, the crocodiles, the welter of arms and legs, the screams, the blood.” Finally, he makes it to refugee camps in Ethiopia and then Kenya, where he is one of 3,000 young men chosen to go to America. After he is adopted by a family in Rochester, New York, he is reunited with the Sudanese family that he left behind. There have been several books about the lost boys of Sudan for adults, teens, and even for elementary-school readers. But Newbery Award–winning Park’s spare, immediate account, based on a true story, adds a stirring contemporary dimension. In chapters that alternate with Salva’s story, Nya, a young Sudanese girl in 2008, talks about daily life, in which she walks eight hours to fetch water for her family. Then, a miracle happens: Salva returns home to help his people and builds a well, making fresh water available for the community and freeing Nya to go to school. The switching viewpoints may initially disorient some, but young readers will be stunned by the triumphant climax of the former refugee who makes a difference with the necessities that we all take for granted. Teachers may want to point out the allusion to Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom (1995) echoed in this moving book’s title. Grades 6-9. --Hazel Rochman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (November 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547251270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547251271
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (802 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard, many other novels, several picture books, and most recently a book of poetry: Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems). She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family, and is now a devoted fan of the New York Mets. For more infromation visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Yoomi VINE VOICE on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There have been many books written about The Lost Boys of Sudan for adults, but not much for the 10-12 age group so I was excited when I heard about "A Long Walk to Water". It's a complicated story to explain, with a war that never seems to end, and suffering that can be difficult to put in words. Linda Sue Park manages to do this by weaving a beautiful story between the past and the present.

To say that Salva walks a long way is an understatement. It's hard to imagine walking for days, let alone a year and a half to find refuge. And the hardships he endures along the way seem impossible to overcome. Yet he manages to keep going, one day at a time. It's an amazing story put in terms that I think younger readers can understand. It is a little confusing at first, with the story going between Salva and Nya, a girl in another village but as the story continued, it made sense to me that they should be told in parallel. Knowing how the two stories would come together made me even more anxious to finish the book.

Not only does Linda Sue Park tell a beautiful, inspiring story, she also brings awareness to the conflict in a far away country and the need for clean water, something we take for granted here in the States. The notes at the end from Salva Dut and the author should definitely be read and teachers/parents could open up some important discussions.

This is definitely a book that will go in the school library where I work.
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96 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Lori Katz on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"A Long Walk to Water" by Linda Sue Park is based on a true story and what an incredible story it is. In 1985, Salva, an 11 year-old boy in Sudan fleas his home village when it is attacked and walks through desert and lion country, crosses a crocodile filled river and spends years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Laced between Salva's travels is Nya's story set in Sudan in 2008. Just as riveting we see Nya walk each day for 8 hours to bring water back to her home. Both stories are haunting and beautiful and I could not put this book down. Both Salva and Nya are strong and resilient. It is amazing to me how much I can learn from a children's historical fiction book. Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, adventure or just a great story.
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133 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Julie VINE VOICE on November 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have mixed feelings about this book. The book follows a lost boy of Sudan and is based on a true story. There are many fine details about life in Sudan, starting with the young girl (Nye) who spends most of her waking hours walking back and forth to bring water to her family. What an essential topic for young adults (and adults) to read and learn about. As a teacher, I wanted to like the book, recommend the book, teach the book before I ever opened it. It's very short, a major plus for many reluctant readers, and the reading level is not challenging. But for such a short book, it feels long.

The chapters alternate between main characters Salva and Nye. Only at the end of the book is the connection between the two characters revealed, and it's the greatest pleasure of the book. Unfortunately, it doesn't rescue the book for me. For most of the book, the alternating chapters irritate because they are so disparate. Furthermore, the book covers some 20+ years of Salva's life in a span of 128 pages, most of which is spent walking. It's one of those books that we want children to love and some certainly will, but many will declare it boring. I couldn't help wondering if the book might be better told in flashback by Salva. With all that walking, Salva had plenty of time to think, yet there is no feeling in the thoughts. He misses his family. He worries the group will leave him behind. He wonders what will become of him. These are thoughts we need not be told--that much is obvious. I know this is Linda Sue Park's writing style, but it's not to my personal taste.

Based on what I know about the lost boys in Sudan, I braced myself to feel sick to my stomach while reading the book, but I never really did, except for one scene involving crocodiles (and soldiers).
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By NyiNya TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hardship is in the eye of the beholder. Here at home, most of us are experiencing it to some extent. Whether it's just cutting back a little, or facing down the barrel of a mortgage payment you can't meet, life has become harder. Does it help to get some perspective?

Does it help to know that, right now, there are places where the cost of a bucket of water is measured in human life?

In the Sudan, water is more precious than gold. You can't eat gold, and without water, you can't eat. It's a dry country at best, but when droughts come, lasting months or years, crops fail, cattle die, and people starve. Water, when available, isn't always clean, so at the best of times, cholera and dysentery are are common. The simple act of getting that water is beyond imagining. It means walking miles to the nearest source, hoping that rival groups don't arrive at the same time so you won't have to fight or risk being killed to get your jug filled. It means filling that jug and carrying it back home, emptying it into a pail and setting out again. Over and over again, dusk until dawn. Venomous snakes and dangerous animals are so common, they barely rate notice. Children, being of less value than adults, are usually given the job. Since girls are not as valuable as boys, this is typically their task. In families of wealth, the boys attend school while the girls learn to become wives and homemakers...and water carriers.

In the dry season, or during a drought, things get trickier. Entire families spend their days trekking for water, and deadly battles over who got there first are much more frequent. At any time of year, drought or no drought, an added attraction would be run-ins with militia groups...
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