When you’re thirteen, it seems as though everything will be the same always, especially if you live in a traditional culture. For John Bul Dau, life with his large family and many friends as cattle keepers in the Dinka tribe was wonderful. The elders were wise and taught them what they needed to know to become strong men and women. There was time for work and time for play. All of that changed the night the Northern soldiers destroyed their village, as told in John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech’s Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping the Civil War in Sudan.
Some wishes are traditional – to be the fairest in the land or find a handsome prince. Some are personal – for a family member to get better, to be a doctor, learn the piano, fall in love. Some are never identified as wishes, but are rather the silent longings of the heart. Written by a truly stellar cast of authors with a foreword by Mia Farrow, What You Wish For is a collection of short stories that center on children who wish.
The collection ranges from Meg Cabot’s wry and humorous “The Protectionist” – which starts with the protagonist lamenting that the school bully has taped a note to his sister’s back which reads, Boobies: Get some; to the quietly poignant “Rules for Wishing” by Francisco X. Stork, where a young boy is celebrating his birthday in the foster care system, after his mother gave his sister up for adoption when his father could not control his fists.
Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner.
In 2008, Nya, a young woman who lives in Sudan, walks two hours one way to get water for her family. She does this twice a day. She does not have shoes. In her book A Long Walk to Water, Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park, introduces us to Nya. She also introduces us to Salva, a young man living in Sudan in 1985.
Their stories are told in alternating tales. Salva is a young student in Sudan in 1985. His country has been going through a civil war for decades. One day while Salva is at school, a group of rebels attack his village. The teacher tells all the students to run away to escape the attack by the rebels. Salva does as instructed but soon finds himself alone and far from his home. He certainly does not feel safe. He is lost and disoriented. He meets up with a group of refugees who are leaving Sudan and heading to Kenya. Salva joins the group though they are reluctant to accept him because he is a child and may become a burden. Salva walks with them, hoping to find safety in Kenya and hoping to be reunited with his family.