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Best of the National Book Festival: Linda Sue Park, 2019

Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

The following post was written by Sasha Dowdy and Monica Valentine, program specialists in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

This event from the National Book Festival is especially for children and teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that young readers, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 9+.

Linda Sue Park’s first published piece was a haiku in a children’s magazine when she was 9 years old, for which she was paid a dollar. She framed the check and has never cashed it. She has published many other books since then, including the Newbery Award-winning “A Single Shard.” In today’s video, she discusses “Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time,” a picture book companion to her novel “A Long Walk to Water,” on the Children’s Green Stage at the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. She is introduced by NBC-TV anchor Eun Yang.

Linda Sue Park starts her presentation at 2:50, and timestamps for major topics are below:

  • True story behind “A Long Walk to Water” (6:22)
  • The true story of Nya (8:25)
  • Nya’s water supply (10:44)
  • Water shortages in the United States and the world (11:45)
  • How access to water changes a community (15:12)
  • Linda Sue Park reads from “Nya’s Long Walk” (16:36)
  • Q&A with audience (21:35)

Writing and Thinking Prompts

  • Have you read any works by Linda Sue Park? How has this talk changed the way you think about this author? What surprised you about the author talk?
  • If you had been at the talk, what would you have asked Linda Sue Park?

Young people who read Linda Sue Park’s books about Salva and Nya were inspired to raise funds to help solve the water problem in South Sudan.

  • Do you know of a problem in your community or school? How would solving this problem help your community flourish? Consider talking to a parent, caregiver or teacher about it. Is there a way that young people can help to address it?

Salva’s journey to America begins with a long and dangerous walk across South Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Salva and the thousands of other boys wanting to escape war in South Sudan were referred to as the Lost Boys.

  • Explore this map of South Sudan, and use the scale to measure distances within and across the country. What do you wonder about the experiences of the Lost Boys as they took their journey?
  • Can you think of other books that tell the story of a long, difficult journey? Make a list of the similarities and differences between Salva’s journey as told in this book and the journey described in another book.

Linda Sue Park talks about the challenge of finding and getting to sources of clean water that can be at least 800 feet below the surface in South Sudan. The lack of access to clean water had serious effects on the lives of girls like Nya and her community.

  • Keep a log for one day of all of the times you use water in your home. How often did you turn on your tap? How much water do you think you used?
  • Have you ever thought about where your water comes from? Use the items below from the Library’s collections as inspiration, then research the water supply in your area, starting with the website of your town or local water department. Where does your drinking water come from? Is it plentiful or scarce? How is water made safe for drinking? Are there ways young people can help ensure water in your area remains safe and available in the future?

Explore More

Learn about a program in South Sudan that teaches reading at communal wells in this video (see 4:12-5:00), and see photos of women and girls like Nya collecting and carrying water.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.

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