“I kept walking” is the title of Salva Dut’s TEDx talk, which we watched as a class after finishing his story, as told by Linda Sue Park in A LONG WALK TO WATER. I would highly recommend parents spend 15 minutes with the video.
Not only does he tell the story in the book we just finished, but he shares an empowering message for everyone, young and old. There is a part of the book where Salva hurts his foot and his uncle encourages him to keep walking across the dessert, “just to the next bush”. After he reaches the bush, he aims for the next landmark. It is in this way that Salva walks through countries and years. To imagine the story of this young man who fled from the middle of a school day when an army came to his village and spent years of his life, first walking to a refugee camp in Ethiopia then walking to a refugee camp in Kenya, then finally coming to the United States and returning to his own country with a mission and a nonprofit, is remarkable.
The way the two stories in the book come together at the end makes me cry every time. (I almost managed not to while reading it out loud to the class.) It is a triumphant end to an emotional journey that is hard for even the most astute reader to see coming. We talked about Salva’s journey, but we also talked about what it meant to be a reader of this story and how we experienced it.
We also had a chance to experience the illustrated version of the story, and we reflected on the pictures in our writing journals, writing our own version of Salva’s story from the 1st person point of view.
We are moving soon to our next book, but I hope Salva’s story will stay with our class for a long time.