I'm so glad Anna Hibiscus was a hit. We seem to be looking to Africa these days. Today's book, though, looks at a very different aspect of the continent.
The opportunity to read a book -- or see a movie -- having little or no idea what it's about is a rare one for me. But the process of discovering-as-one-goes is so satisfying. It's also how the author intended it to be.
I just had this experience with
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. I knew it had something to do with the Lost Boys -- thousands of homeless boys displaced by civil war in the Sudan during the '80s and '90s. (Dave Eggers wrote an adult book, What is the What three years ago based on the life of one of the Lost Boys who ended up in the U.S. Link is to a lovely article by my spouse about the book.) A Long Walk to Water alternates chapters told from the point of view of Salva Dut (a very real person), who flees an attack on his village in 1985, and a fictional girl named Nya in 2008, who must walk eight hours a day to fetch water for her family. Park's book tells children -- it's aimed at the ten-and-up crowd -- about the horrors of war, the hardships of living in a desert country, and the amazing personality of the man whose experiences are the core of the book. And it leaves the reader with a real feeling of hope. The ending made me cry, too -- but I'm not going to do a spoiler on this.
It made me think of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, about his campaign to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The publisher did a
young people's version of the book, aimed at this same audience of ten and up. It's an amazing story which carries the reader along despite the clunky writing. With Long Walk, though, the writing is in the hands of a Newbery medal winner, and it's a quite fine book. It's going on my might-be-a-winner list.