A Book with a Digital Companion

“Walking Home” by Eric Walters is a middle grade novel about two Kenyan orphans that walk 150 km from an IDP (internal displacement) camp to their grandparent’s house. The story is spectacular enough, and the website that accompanies it makes it even more spectacular.
Muchoki and his younger sister Jata have lost their father and other relatives to political violence. When their mother dies of malaria at the camp, Muchoki learns that he and his sister are to be placed in orphanages. So the two sneak out one night to walk to their grandparent’s house, although they have never before met their grandparents. They are only guided by a “string”, which comes from their mother’s stories.
The novel is a great read. It is hard to put down, a real page turner. And the ending made me cry. In a good way.
Most of all, I love the digital companion that accompanies the book. Found at www.ericwalterswalkinghome.com, the reader can discover audio, video, images, maps or articles related to the book. What makes it so real, is that it is real. The author, accompanied by several Canadians and by several Kenyan orphans, walked the route that his main characters took in the novel! Talk about doing your research!
So on the website, you can find background information about such topics as real IDP camps and ethnic groupings in Kenya. You can find pictures of who the main characters are based on in real life. You can find videos of real displaced persons talking about their experience or of what it’s like to be in a church in Kenya.
Authors will also find a lot of valuable information on the website. Eric Walters has posted information about how his personal experience helped shape his book, about the editorial process, even alternative chapters he wrote. In chapter three, page 6, Walters has a particularly important author note on the importance of constantly engaging in dialogue with those people you are representing.
Are digital companions the wave of the future? The website certainly is a lot of added effort. Does it attract more readers? It certainly attracted me. Actually, that is why I originally decided to read the book. I heard about the digital companion and was intrigued. But the book would stand alone as a great novel.
If you have a moment, check out Eric Walter’s website and let me know what you think.


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