Sunday, September 08, 2019

Water! Nya's Long Walk by Linda Sue Park

"Come on," Nya said. "Why are you slow today?"

"I'm tired." Akeer said.

Nya sighed. "I'll tell Mama," she said.

"Don't," Akeer begged. She started walking a little faster.

On the daily two-hour walk to a well, little Akeer is usually chipper and chatty, but this day her steps soon start to drag again. Nya tries singing a clapping song, and Akeer makes it to the well. The sisters have a long drink and rest for a few minutes before Nya picks up the now full jerry can and starts back toward home.

Suddenly Akeer plops down and begins to cry.
She looked up at Nya, her eyes very big.

Akeer was not a crybaby. Her cheeks were burning hot.

Akeer was sick.

Nya realizes that she must manage to carry Akeer and the water. She pours out more than half of the precious water, but still struggles to carry both.
|"I can't do it. It's too far," she thinks.

But she knows she must. She picks a goal, a tree or stump ahead and one at a time makes it to them. Then she begins to force herself to take just one more step and then another. Somehow she summons enough strength to reach her village, only to find that she must help her mother carry Akeer on a two-day trek to the health center, a step at a time.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and in Newbery author Linda Sue Park's picture book adaptation of her noted best-seller, ( A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story) the just-published Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2019) focuses on family devotion and the heroic endurance of her courageous characters. There's a heroism in grand deeds, but also in small ones, one footstep at a time, as in this moving story of a sister's love.

For primary graders, who may never have given a thought to easy access to a drink of clean water, Park's sensitive story of what some children face daily may come as a shock, and author Park doesn't fail to make her case for support for the mission of the NGO Water for South Sudan. Still, as a human story of family love and perseverance, this one is a tale well told. Caldecott artist Brian Pinkney's illustrations, done with minimalist figures and expressionistic portrayal of the dusty scrub land and dry windy landscape through which the two sisters toil their way, will prompt emotional reactions from primary graders--and a lot of questions.

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