A Long Walk to Water

It’s been a while– but exciting news! This is the first children’s book to be reviewed on Outsidehook, and spoiler– I was impressed.

Book Stats:

  • A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story
  • Linda Sue Park
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Released November 15, 2010
  • 5 stars


This is the intertwining of two stories about two characters– one real and one fictional– set in Africa. Salva is a Sudanese boy separated from family and forced to make an arduous journey to safety alone. Nya is a young girl who years later walks for hours each day to get water for her family. In a brilliant story, Linda Sue Park explores each of these characters and how their stories connect.


“Going was easy.

Going, the big plastic container held only air. Tall for her eleven years, Nya could switch the handle from one hand to the other, swing the container by her side, or cradle it in both arms. She could even drag it behind her, bumping it against the ground and raising a tiny cloud of dust with each step.”

I loved A Long Walk to Water! It has everything I have come to love about children’s literature– the lucid voice, the simple storyline, the dynamic characters. Linda Sue Park does not hide behind flowery language or sensational romance, but delivers a story that feels so real and so true. She conveys the perception of a child without writing like one, and that is an impressive feat.

“There was little weight, going. There was only heat, the sun already baking the air, even though it was long before noon. It would take her half the morning if she didn’t stop on the way.

Heat. Time. And thorns.”

The effect of this style was magnified by the dual perspective aspect of the book. Although the two characters Nya and Salva are not directly related, their stories seamlessly intertwine. Both Nya and Salva are remarkably complex characters. Each is in a less than desirable situation, yet they each face it with a matter-of-fact “this is how things are” outlook that makes the story all the more heartbreaking.

“I need only to get through the rest of this day, he told himself. This day and no other.

If someone had told Salva that he would live in the camp for six years, he would never have believed it.

A Long Walk to Water takes the reader on a treacherous journey of time within a little over 100 pages. And while in most cases this is set-up for an overly dramatized plot and an underdeveloped story, Park pulls it off, her story tugging at the heartstrings of readers as Nya and especially Salva are dragged into hardship and tragedy.

But beneath all of the pain and the sorrow, there is so much hope. Park does not sugar-coat everything (although I could have done with an unhappier ending)– there is death and starvation and isolation because that is how it is– yet all the while she manages to keep you hoping and hoping that something good is on the horizon. The strength of her characters lifted my spirits and crushed them at the same time. A must-read.

Similar Reads: Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

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