Have you ever felt the frustration of working hard for something and still not getting it? Have you ever been so close to something, only to have it pulled out of reach again? Auma, the main character from Auma’s Long Run, by Eucabeth Odhiambo, experiences these struggles while on the long journey to her achieving her dream.
Auma’s Long Run is the story of Auma, a young runner who dreams of getting a scholarship to high school so that she may one day become a doctor. She has a good life. She lives with her three younger siblings and mother in the small village of Koromo in Africa. Her father works in the city of Nairobi to help support their family.
Auma has a promising future in track and in school. She has always wanted to do something special with her life. She wants to help people and make a difference. But when an unfamiliar new disease called AIDS finds its way to Auma’s village, her life changes forever.
When her father comes home from the city acting strange, Auma suspects that he has this deadly new disease, and she begins to worry. Auma’s father grows weaker every day and cannot return to the city to work. As Auma’s family loses money, her grandmother wishes Auma would drop out of school to get married and go to work, but Auma is not ready to give up on her dream.
There is a scene in the book where Auma is at a track meet. There are scouts there from different high schools. As Auma is getting ready to run the 100-meter dash, she sees her two brothers running over by the finish line with panicked looks on their faces. Auma immediately knows something is wrong. When the gun goes off, Auma runs faster than she has ever run before. She beats every other person by a lot. But when she gets to the finish line, she keeps running, even though it means she will not be able to talk to any scouts. When Auma gets home, she sees that her dad is about to die from the illness in her village.
Auma’s story is full of tragedy, struggle, and sacrifice. To some people, Auma will be a very relatable character because this book realistically reflects problems that children face today. Auma loses her parents to disease and becomes an orphan. Auma also wants an education, but her family can’t afford to pay for school. Athletic scholarships often offer opportunities for children to attend schools they might not otherwise be able to afford. For those who have not endured similar hardships, this story offers a unique perspective. It will make any reader more aware of what is going on in the world.
I would highly recommend this book to any children in fifth grade through seventh grade because of the inspirational message, the sports-related theme, and the determined main character. Auma’s story inspires us to dream big and to keep playing sports and doing well in school. Auma shows us that there is always a way to achieve our dreams.
Cover courtesy of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group