Monday, November 1, 2010
A Drink of Water
If you love short middle grade novels written in spare, unemotional prose, you need to read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Clarion, Nov 2010, for ages 10 and up). At a slim 120 pages (Note: I read the ARC), this is so short and flows so smoothly, you're almost sorry when it's finished.
You probably drank a glass of tap water or a bottle of spring water in the last few hours. Where did it come from? Was it clean? A Long Walk to Water makes you realize just how lucky you are. Many third world countries do not have easy access to water. And what the people drink is often muddy and contaminated.
A Long Walk to Water takes place in Southern Sudan. Expertly-crafted, it's actually two parallel stories in one. First we meet Nya in 2008. Tall for her eleven years, she's responsible for walking barefoot many miles to bring back water for her family. She carries a jar on her head. And she does this twice every day, for a total of eight hours of walking. Every day.
Second, we meet Salva, an eleven-year-old boy in 1985, during the Sudanese Civil War. He's in school one day when gunfire erupts outside. His teacher tells the boys to run into the bush, not home to their village where the soldiers will go next. Salva runs until he can't run anymore, and then walks for hours. Away from home. He joins other refugees, heading east to Ethiopia. Salva becomes one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and will end up walking for years before finding a home.
How these dual narratives merge near the very end is breathtaking.
Linda Sue Park (author of A Single Shard and other memorable novels) based this book on Salva Dut's own written accounts and on many hours of interviews with him.
Have YOU read any books this year that were based on a true story? I'd love to hear about them.