Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Long Walk to the What

One of my wonderful daughters was helping me get into bed this morning after I wrenched my back. She wanted to know what else she could do to help. Stoically, I said, “Oh nothing. You’ve done plenty”. And she said, “I’ll bring you a book”. Proud mommy moment and credit in the awesome kid bank for that one! I asked her to bring me the copy of Linda Sue Park’s new book, A Long Walk to Water that I had left in the living room. She did.

I sank under the covers and read with fascination about Salva Dut, one of the legendary Lost Boys of Sudan, and his remarkable trek from Southern Sudan to Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps to Rochester, New York and back to Sudan. I couldn't put it down. Awesome book – my back pain faded fast as the tears for Salva poured down my cheeks and I gained a little perspective about suffering! 

The publisher suggests that it’s appropriate for children 10 and up and that seems right to me. While my own kids will sometimes refuse to read the books that are leveled for kids younger than they are, I’ll be encouraging each of them to read this one. It’s a fantastic account of an excruciating story and it’s not dumbed down in the least, yet it’s entirely appropriate and digestible for middle schoolers and high schoolers alike. It’s a story of man’s inhumanity to man and, equally, a story of hope and perseverance and what’s possible – it strikes me as a story that will grip and affect both boys and girls exactly the way it should. It’s a reminder of the vastness and realities of the world that we live in. 

If you have ever read Dave Eggers’ What is the What, you will quickly recognize that this is the perfect young adult companion to that book. Eggers’ book tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, also one of the Lost Boys with a harrowing tale of inconceivable suffering and indomitable spirit. It's one of the most amazing books I've ever read and I highly recommend it. Both books are the type that raise awareness and change lives. I think we owe it to the children in our lives and to ourselves to be in touch with the realities of the world beyond our own experiences and I'm so grateful that books like these make it possible.

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