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A Long Walk to Water / by Linda Sue Park

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Title: A Long Walk to Water 
Author: Linda Sue Park

Publisher: Clarion Books
ISBN: 978-0-547-25127-1
Year: 2010

Concepts: economics of conflict, forced labor, scarcity, natural resources, child labor and schooling, economics of gender, social justice

Review: On a fateful day in 1985 in the southern part of Sudan, eleven-year-old Salva Dut and his classmates suddenly heard a spate of gunfire in the village, and their lives took an instant and terrifying change of course. Told to run into the bush and not go home, Salva fled the soldiers who had attacked the village. Not knowing what happened to his family, where to go, or how he would take care of himself, Salva just kept going. He ultimately wound up spending the next eleven years in several refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, with long intervals spent walking from place to place and fighting for survival.

Also in southern Sudan, several years later, eleven-year-old Nya walked to the pond twice a day to fetch water for her family. One trip took all morning, and the second trip took all afternoon, so there was no time for her to go to school or even to play. Twice a day every day, with the hot sun beating down on her back and sharp thorns digging into her feet. During the dry season the family moved to a camp by the big lake. The lake camp saved Nya from having to walk all day, but she still spent long hours collecting water, the water was dirty, and the camp brought them closer to the fighting between rival tribes.

This gripping book tells the parallel stories of two children who clung to hope and perseverance in order to overcome these harrowing and extremely difficult situations. Based on real events that Salva Dut experienced as a child and young adult, the book highlights some persistent problems related to the burden of collecting water, often borne by girls and women, and of forced labor in military groups, often borne by boys and men. The book will appeal to young adult readers who can handle these difficult topics while thinking about avenues for effective change.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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