“He ran until he could not run anymore. Then he walked. For hours, until the sun was nearly gone from the sky.” page 9
A Long Walk to Water: A Novel Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 5.0 (worth 3.0 points) .
Southern Sudan, 2008: Nya is a young girl who, for seven months of the year, spends every day walking to a nearby pond and bringing a heavy plastic container back to her family. After a brief stop for lunch, she repeats the task in the afternoon. Every day.
Southern Sudan, 1985: Salva is a young boy displaced by the wars and drought that are sweeping through the Sudan. He, too, walks for miles every day, but without a lunch, home, or destination. He walks with the hope of survival, unlikely for a young Sudanese boy alone in the world.
This book has been on my TBR for a while, but originally I was under the impression it was non-fiction. The afterword has notes from both Salva Dut and author Linda Sue Park, explaining how the story was based on his life, using interviews, personal conversations, and his writings to keep the fictionalized story as close as possible to what actually happened.
“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009. My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: 960L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 15.0 points) .
NOTE: There are three books with this title. This review is of the adult edition. There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.
William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again. Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.
This book surprised me. I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village. But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.
This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa. Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings. The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa. There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.
Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book. If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review. But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.
Tale of a mixed-race South African childhood is a surprisingly gripping and fast read.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Spiegel & Grau, Imprint of Random House, 2016.
Autobiography, 285 pages.
Purposefully born to a Xhosa mother and a Swiss/German father in South Africa, the act of Trevor Noah’s very birth was a crime in apartheid South Africa, so he spent the first five years of his life inside except for the occasional carefully orchestrated outing. Visibly lighter skinned than his family, but not quite white either, Trevor holds a unique, insider/outsider perspective on the South Africa of his childhood.
I bought this book at Target thanks to my new policy. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own. I actually flipped through this book previously and then found a children’s book instead. It was presented like a comedy book, not something I would seek given my unusual taste in humor.
This book has an intriguing premise. There are two stories – on the top of each page, outlined in red, is what my copy calls life in “a small African village” and on the bottom of each page, outlined in blue, is what my copy calls life in “a modern suburban setting.” The two stories are very, very different, but they are united by the central text, which in simple words states what is happening in the lives of both boys, for example “Today was the last day of school before vacation.” or “I helped my mom and dad.” In my copy, the text is only in English, although some other reviews have indicated that other editions might have had other text as well at one point, and there is white space where such text could occur.
Normally I don’t seek out reviews for books I’m planning to review, but this book was an exception. I needed to see what others were saying in order to make sense of my own reaction to the book, and I was confused that the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. There were very few negative reviews even though the book has several crippling flaws.