Newbery Medalist, Linda Sue Park, teams up with Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Brian Pinkney, to adapt her widely-acclaimed middle grade book, A Long Walk From Water. Young readers will step into the footsteps of Nya and her sister Akeem as they haul heavy jugs of water on an arduous journey made several times per day in Southern Sudan.
Park is a masterful storyteller. She doesn’t merely retell her chapter book, she rewrites scenes and adds rich vocabulary to help preschoolers comprehend complex plots. Several pages in, however, it is evident that the picture book is an entirely different book from her chapter book.
Nya’s mother is “Mama” and plastic jugs are “jerry cans.” Salva Dut, who was the main character in “A Long Walk From Water,” only gets two pages. Deservingly, this time, the focus is on “the girls of South Sudan who have to walk for water,” who’ve had to trek where famine is common and where sacrifices have been made for their tribes. Their stories deserve to be told. What was it like before the lifesaving wells were built? Muted earth tones, browns, greens and maroon hurry sweeping brush strokes to create huts and the daily life of Southern Sudan where Nya and her family live. The clothing of the Nuer, Tob, in colorful brief skirts is beautifully rendered with purples, greens and reds. Arid whorls and desiccated brown trees seem to convey a terrain lacking moisture.
Pinkney is a gifted artist and in his element. Readers will find themselves pulling for Nya to finish the journey, to find aid for Akeem’s ailment and gain a newfound appreciation for clean water. Up to this point, the blended sentences of thoughts and dialogue worked. Towards the end, a sudden break and subheading was disruptive if meant to be a callout of information. Adding primary material, photography and author’s notes could be a solution to wrapping up an otherwise perfect series.
Authentic, incredible and inspiring those of us in the Western world look forward to reading more companion books and the author and illustrator to produce more. Fans of the picturebook, Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds, will enjoy comparing the water bearing customs of the Western African Burkina Faso to the South Sudanese.