An 11 year old named Salva is in school daydreaming about him and his brothers herding his cattle at home. He is thinking about how lucky he is to be a boy in Southern Sudan in 1985 and going to school. Boys get to go to school here in South Sudan when they are 11.
Salva is sitting in class and all of a sudden they here gunshots. The war is going on and it has come to the Loun-Ariik village. The rebels are fighting for freedom of religion. Salva's teacher tells all the students to run into the bush and not go home. Salva runs as far away from the rebels as he can.
Salva reunited with his uncle Jewiir. His uncle was in the group with him, but the group is so big that just now found each other. They go a while walking with each other and his uncle becomes the leader of the group. They are on their way to a refugee camp to Ethiopia. They are almost there when some people from the Nuer tribe come and rob everyone. Salva's uncle Jewiir gets shot and dies.
Salva gets left behind and finds another group of Dinka people. He meets a friend and they have a lot in common. His name is Marial. A few days later while everyone is asleep a lion creeps up and snatches Marial. Marial is now dead and everyone is so sad.
Salva and the rest of the group finally make it to the refugee camp in Ethiopia. The refugee camp is very crowded and they barely have enough supplies for everybody. Salva and a few boys leave to go to a refugee camp in Kenya. Salva becomes the leader of this group. They get to the refugee camp in Kenya and it is just as crowded, but Salva learns English here from one of the aids named Michael. He manages to live in these camps for 16 years.
There is a rumor going around that well people that have no family at the refugee camp get to go to America and make a new life there. Salva has no family and is still well. Salva waits a long time and finally he sees that he gets to go to Rochester, New York. He takes the long trip and finally he meets his new adopted family.