Calamity strikes when two sisters take a trek outside of their village in South Sudan to fetch water in this picture-book adaptation of the bestselling A Long Walk to Water (2010).
Nya, the elder, notices that Akeer is becoming uncharacteristically tearful, then listless. On the titular long walk back, Nya realizes her sister is gravely ill and must struggle to carry both Akeer and the water, going step by step, landmark by landmark. When they return, Nya learns that Akeer must be taken to the clinic, a journey of two to three days on foot, because she “has the sickness that comes from drinking dirty water.” Exhausted but determined, Nya sets off on the journey with her mother and sister—and that is where the story ends. The three pages that follow combine the fictional story of Nya and Akeer with the true story of Salva Dut and his organization, Water for South Sudan. It explains what’s happened to Akeer and that clean-water wells eventually come to Nya’s village, but it is not an adequate conclusion for this story that began so full of compassion, sacrifice, and love. Curious readers will wonder what the journey was like for the mother and her daughters and what Akeer felt as she recovered, but that is left to their imaginations. Pinkney’s swirling brush strokes, dominated by brown, terra cotta, and gold, indicate the desert landscape, focusing on the children’s tired, stoic faces.
Compelling characters in a story that’s too short for them. (Picture book. 5-8)