Lost Girl Found

For Poni, life in her small village in southern Sudan is simple and complicated at the same time. But then the war comes and there is only one thing for Poni to do. Run. Run for her life. Driven by the sheer will to survive and the hope that she can somehow make it to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Poni sets out on a long, dusty trek across the east African countryside with thousands of refugees. In Kakuma she is almost overwhelmed by the misery that surrounds her. Poni realizes that she must leave the camp at any cost. Her destination is a compound in Nairobi. There, if she is lucky, she can continue her education and even one day convince authorities that she is worthy to go to the land of opportunity called America. Even more than the dramatic events of the story, it is Poni’s frank and single-minded personality that carries this novel. In a heartbreaking final twist, she finds her mother just as she is about to leave for the U.S., and must make the hardest decision of all.

Lost Boy, Lost Girl

One of thousands of children who fled strife in southern Sudan, John Bul Dau survived hunger, exhaustion, and violence. His wife, Martha, endured similar hardships. In this memorable book, the two convey the best of African values while relating searing accounts of famine and war. There’s warmth as well, in their humorous tales of adapting to American life. For its importance as a primary source, for its inclusion of the rarely told female perspective of Sudan’s lost children, for its celebration of human resilience, this is the perfect story to inform and inspire young readers.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 5, Issue 2

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk

In the little village of Duk Padiet in southern Sudan, a boy named Jacob Deng thrives on the love of his mother, the companionship of his sisters, the excitement of learning how to look after his uncle’s herds of cattle. The year is 1987, and suddenly in the night soldiers from the north invade the village, looting, burning, and killing. The war has arrived, and the life of Jacob will never be the same. This novel is based on the real life experiences of a Sudanese boy who, with thousands of other boys from the region, fled for his life and spent seven years walking through deserts, grasslands and forests, crossing crocodile-infested rivers, surviving life in massive refugee camps. The so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – as they were called by an American aid organization – numbered as many as 27,000, and while many died – from starvation, attacks by wild animals, drowning, or through the brutality of the military – many survived. Jacob never returned to his village, but though he was only seven years old when he had to flee, he somehow managed to live through an almost unimaginable ordeal. Throughout the seven years covered in this story, Jacob resists the temptation to join the liberation army. Steadily Jacob finds himself more and more adhering to his mother’s advice that getting an education is crucial to escaping the cycle of violence that afflicts his country. Jacob’s struggle, then, is to persist in seeking out teachers and eventually a school where his ambition to learn about the world can be met. Through it all he learns about loyalty and love for close friends who have been thrust together with him on this extraordinary journey, and also about the guiding light provided by the memory of his mother.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 2

A Long Walk To Water

Combining simple, economical prose with a profound awareness of the hardships that life sometimes brings to young people, Linda Sue Park has crafted a suspenseful, accessible novel that goes beyond newspaper headlines to illuminate human experience. Includes an afterword from the author and one from Salva Dut. A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 2

They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky: The True Story Of Three Lost Boys From Sudan

Benjamin, Alepho, and Benson were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils. The lions and pythons that prowled beyond the village fences were the greatest threat they knew. All that changed the night the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. Amid the chaos, screams, conflagration, and gunfire, five-year-old Benson and seven-year-old Benjamin fled into the dark night. Two years later, Alepho, age seven, was forced to do the same. Across the Southern Sudan, over the next five years, thousands of other boys did likewise, joining this stream of child refugees that became known as the Lost Boys. Their journey would take them over one thousand miles across a war-ravaged country, through landmine-sown paths, crocodile-infested waters, and grotesque extremes of hunger, thirst, and disease. The refugee camps they eventually filtered through offered little respite from the brutality they were fleeing. In They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, Alepho, Benson, and Benjamin, by turn, recount their experiences along this unthinkable journey. They vividly recall the family, friends, and tribal world they left far behind them and their desperate efforts to keep track of one another. This is a captivating memoir of Sudan and a powerful portrait of war as seen through the eyes of children. And it is, in the end, an inspiring and unforgettable tribute to the tenacity of even the youngest human spirits.