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Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time Book Poster Image
Touching tale explores perseverance, clean water access.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about the human rights issue of access to clean drinking water.

Positive Messages

Be kind and understanding with your siblings. You can do things you thought were impossible. Take challenges one step at a time. Encourage yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nya is a relatable main character (annoyed at little sister). Her later compassion, perseverance, and willingness to help her mother despite her exhaustion are deeply admirable. All characters are black Africans from South Sudan.  A former refugee builds a well in the sisters’ village.

Violence & Scariness

Nothing violent, but the sister’s sudden illness and the long, hard walk back to the village are suspenseful and could be scary, especially for younger kids.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time by Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park, illustrated by award-winning Brian Pinkney, is a picture book companion to her middle grade novel A Long Walk to Water. This story follows Nya, a character from the novel, and her sister Akeer on their hours-long walk to and from a water hole. Akeer becomes sick and Nya must figure out how to get the water and her sister home. The journey back to the village spans several suspenseful pages, and very young and sensitive readers might fear for Akeer’s well-being. Kids will learn about the importance of clean water access and see compassion and perseverance in action. Nya is a fantastic role model. She’s a devoted and responsible sister worthy of much admiration. An endnote cleverly disguised as the conclusion wraps up the sisters’ story, describes how the South Sudanese are working to increase access to clean drinking water and what it means for girls like these to have clean water in their villages.

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What's the story?

NYA’S LONG WALK: A STEP AT A TIME is an inspirational story about Nya, a South Sudanese girl, and her journey to save her sister. When Nya notices that Akeer is very ill on the way home from getting water, she realizes she must carry both her sister and the water. She struggles, one step at a time, toward help. When they return to the village, Nya’s mother asks her to help on the days-long journey to the clinic, but Nya can hardly imagine more walking. The closing pages tell what happened after the long walk, as well as information about what people (even kids) are doing to ensure access to clean water in South Sudan.

Is it any good?

This beautiful picture book has a compelling story and evocative illustrations. Bold colors and expressive faces reflect the bond the sisters share. Brian Pinkney's expansive, impressionistic paintings of the parched dessert landscape add tension to the slow progress Nya makes on the way home. The straightforward text matches the urgency of this story, and just a few pages in, readers will be rooting for Nya to make it home and for Akeer to recover from her illness. The ending surpasses “happy” to meaningful; it’s a satisfying conclusion that ties the fictional story into the real-life issues the book covers. Adults will have many avenues to extend conversation and learning after reading this book. The positive representations of the strength and self-sufficiency of the South Sudanese make Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time a welcome addition to any kid’s library.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the hours Nya and her sister spend each day fetching water in Nya's Long Walk. How would your life be different if you had to spend several hours a day getting water for your family? What can kids do when there’s clean water close to home?

  • Describe Nya’s character strengths. How does she show these strengths? In what ways have you shown courage or perseverance?

  • How did it feel to see Akeer get sick and see how long it took to get her home? How do you deal with feeling scared or worried? Who can support you with big feelings?

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