Written by: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
For ages: 4-9 years
Topics Covered: Global Community, Africa, African Culture, Sudan, Sudanese Life, Water, Medicine, Family, Siblings, Love, Lived Experiences, POC-Centric Narratives.
Nya and her sister Akeer live in Sudan and must walk a long way to get water. One day when making the journey, Akeer falls ill and Nya must carry both her sister and the water back to their house. When she gets back to the village, Nya’s mother realizes that Akeer is sick from drinking dirty water, and they must take her to the doctor. Tired but strong, Nya comes along carrying all of the supplies they’ll need for the long and arduous walk to the doctor.
This book is a fictionalized tale, but it tells a familiar story for a lot of girls who live in Sudan. Sickness from dirty water is common, but there are organizations that work to drill wells in the villages that have the longest walks to water. When these wells are dug, it also gives back valuable time typically spent walking to be allocated to education. This book talks about an organization started by Salva Dut, a refugee from South Sudan that now digs wells in remote villages.
What we really like about this book is that it highlights an individual from the area making a difference, not a white savior organization. Dut’s organization is called Water for South Sudan and was started in 2003.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.
This is the first thing she ever published—a haiku in a children’s magazine when she was nine years old:
In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.
For this poem she was paid one whole dollar. She gave the check to her dad for Christmas. About a year later the company wrote to her asking her to cash the check! Linda Sue wrote back explaining that it was now framed and hung above her dad’s desk and was it okay if he kept it? The magazine said it was fine, and her dad still has that check.
During elementary school and high school, Linda Sue had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject …).
In 1983, after two years with the oil company, Linda Sue left her job and moved to Dublin when a handsome Irishman swept her off her feet. She studied literature, moved to London, worked for an advertising agency, married that Irishman, had a baby, taught English as a second language to college students, worked as a food journalist, and had another baby. It was a busy time, and she never even thought about writing children’s books.
In 1990, she and her family moved back to the U.S. because of her husband’s job. Linda Sue continued teaching English to foreign students. It took her quite a while, but she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was to write books for children. In 1997, she started writing her first book, Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999.
Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, including A Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal.
She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.
Acclaimed artist Brian Pinkney is the illustrator of several highly-praised picture books including The Faithful Friend, In the Time of the Drums, and Duke Ellington . He is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a master’s degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates, and his two children.
Brian has won numerous awards including two Caldecott Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors and a Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. He has been exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The School of Visual Arts, and The Society of Illustrators.
He has been published by Greenwillow Books, Hyperion Books for Young Readers, Little, Brown and Company, Feiwel & Friends, Harcourt Children’s Books, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. His work has also appeared in New York Times Magazine, Women’s Day, Business Tokyo, Ebony Man, and Instructor.