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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating…

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (2009)

by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer

Other authors: Mary Schuck (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,3761205,549 (4.1)213
  1. 21
    Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton (_Zoe_)
    _Zoe_: A different, but equally positive, story of growing up in Africa

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
This was a very good book for a young reader who is not familiar with African culture. The author have great examples of modern conveniences when describing his village's way of living. He used simple terms.

The author's experience is inspiring for young readers. ( )
  godmotherx5 | Apr 5, 2018 |
A truly beautiful and inspirational story about a young man with access to a library and lots of time on his hands after his family can no longer afford his school fees. Despite crippling famine, poverty, and illness there is triumph....all because of a little free library and lots of curiosity and creativity! Excellent story! And very inspiring young man! ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. ~Hebrews 11:1. Faith is something William Kamkwamba had a lot of. Among other quailities, such as, courage, ingenuity, wisdom, compassion, strength, and perseverance. This biography follows a teenagers journey from famine to fame. He started with an idea and a pile of junk and ended up creating a windmill to provide electricity for his family's home and then for his village. The support from his family and the mocking from the fellow villagers gave him the determination to make his dream a reality. This book is about overcoming adversity in a place where suffering seemed to be the only option. I have never heard this story so it was nice to learn about it, the book would be great for middlle/high school students to learn about other cultures and put their lives into perspective about how fortunate we are in America. It was an ok read for me, but developed a greater appreciation for the book as we dug deeper into it in class through discussion and group activities. I wish there would have been a few more photographs and illustrations in the adult version of the book. ( )
  dersbowes | Mar 14, 2018 |
Generally speaking, as an American, it’s pretty commonplace to cheer on a feel-good, up-from- poverty-to-overcome-the-odds story, especially when the story comes with its own subset of dramatic qualifiers – first a famine, then the floods, and, great heresy!, forbidden thinking, as in going against the grain in one’s own culture. That’s as quintessentially American as you can get. All the better when the story rises from another part of the world, as in the developing or “third” world, where the challenges are seemingly so insurmountable, one cannot help but root for the protagonist no matter the impossibility of the obstacles.

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba tells a personal tale, as the cliché goes, so tall, only a team of Hollywood’s finest tear-jerker specialists might concoct such a story. Happily for us, it’s all true. But as many of us who stay attuned to micro-histories in our midst, the truly heroic gestures in the long history of humankind are often accomplished by an “everyperson” on a rather regular basis.

Kamkwamba’s mini-epic is that of an uber-geek hero – not the sort of uniform-clad demi-deity whose persona is adjusted for just this side of social justice, and set to “cool” for onscreen worship. William’s domain is the field of physics, specifically how to generate electricity from the junk and scrap yards near his small village in Malawi. First, he wants to do something practical, necessity being the mother of invention. But Kamwamba’s dreams were already big before he embarked on his quest to conquer darkness and bring light to his family, his village, and his country.

To read of a child devastated by the thought that s/he might not be able to attend school is refreshing and inspiring. Even the most jaded educator or stuck-in-the-mud cynic who knows well how apathetic the state of education is in the United States should come away feeling at least a glimmer of hope.

Kamkwamba’s persistence, once he is turned away from school for lack of funds to pay his fees, sets him on a path that he rarely leaves, save for when he must help in the harvest, a family enterprise which he writes about with great joy. The spirit-crushing stamina needed to stay alive living life as a starving child during a famine would be excuse enough to abandon any hopes of being hopeful –for what? If nature, upon which his family and village so fully depend, had forsaken them, what was left to hope for?

And yet, Kamkwamba maintains, buoyed by occasional thoughts of returning to his studies, strengthened by his friendships with a few close friends – Charity, Geoffrey, and Gilbert – grounded in his bonds with his family, and surviving the daily horror of watching the life die out of his dog, only to set him free in the blue-gum forest with the help of a friend who convinces Kamkwamba that it is more humane to allow him to pass on to the next world than endure another day of suffering. As loyal to the dog as the dog was to him, Kamkwamba is torn, but ultimately realizes that following his friend’s advice is best.

Yet, it is that same deep sense of compassion and selflessness – IN A CHILD – that steadies him as he weathers the criticism and heckling from family and community members alike regarding his curiosity to find treasure in trash. He is a master recycler – a poster child for the movement – and a determined DIY daredevil.

By the time Kamkwamba constructs, then climbs, his fabulously clumsy-looking contraption, you get a sense that he would just as easily be at home working in a special effects shop or stunt team as he makes science seem death-defyingly dangerous on a practical level. There were enough close calls during the latter half of the book to make you realize one person’s sense of derring-do could lead to a family’s demise, but done with the best of intentions.

This is a must read for everyone who loves the spunk of rebel spirit that drives our most driven inventors and creative-types. This is STEM on steroids to the nth degree. Kamkwamba is not merely an African/Malawian Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Edison; he joins the long line of inventors of color who, once enabled with knowledge and a sense of know-how, decided to apply their talents and sense of ingenuity to solve practical dilemmas.

As Kamkwamba now benefits from the benefactors who will not let a rising star’s ascendance fade anytime soon, who knows what else he will contribute to the world of creation? Let’s hope we are lucky enough to live in the midst of such brilliance, sustained by a drive to succeed despite the haters and hardheads who insist on saying “NO!” when all one needs is a chance to try and defy with a “YES!”. ( )
  raboissi | Mar 8, 2018 |
This type of book is what I would call, "comfort food history." It does not discuss anything spectacularly unusual. It does not break new ground on well worn topics. However, what "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" does well is tell a compelling human story. William Kamkwamba is a compelling protagonist and his story is well told. Whether that comes from his direct involvement in the writing process or from the steady hand of the acclaimed co-writer, Bryan Mealer, who assisted him with the project. Either way, "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" is exactly the kind of heartwarming, uplifting true story that teachers will like to show their children.
The book is presented with a narrative format and a deliberately laid back tone despite the horror and sadness discussed in a life hurt by poverty, famine, and lack of education. It isn't overly maudlin, despite the subject matter, and there is also very little partisanship in the depiction of the setting or events that transpired. This is likely because, although written as an adult, Kamkwamba and Mealer capture the voice and mindset of a child in how the story is told and events are portrayed.
The sparkling dialogue and believable characters make this book a quick and enjoyable read. Fans of "Do-It-Yourself" handiwork and applying scientific concepts in the real world will love how William and his friends work to complete their windmill motor. For me personally, it was a good read, and I can see why a lot of people like it, but this is unfortunately too much like every other inspiring story of courage and ingenuity in the face of adversity ever put to page. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I could see what felt like formula beats for this type of narrative and I do not know if that is the material or simply the style of writing Kamkwamba and Mealer went with. Still an enjoyable read despite it not reinventing the wheel. ( )
  Bpbirdwh | Mar 6, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
An autobiography so moving that it is almost impossible to read without tears. In understated and simple prose, Kamkwamba and Mealer offer readers a tour through one Malawian boy’s inspiring life.
With so many tales of bloody hopelessness coming out of Africa, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind reads like a novel with a happy ending, even though it’s just the beginning for this remarkable young man, now 21 years old.
added by lampbane | editGood, Mark Frauenfelder (Sep 29, 2009)
This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kamkwamba, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mealer, Bryanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Schuck, MaryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kerner, Jamie LynnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To my family
First words
The preparation was complete, so I waited.
I try, and I made it.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the original work, published in 2009, subtitled "Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope." Please do not combine it with the Young Reader's Edition or the Picture Book Edition (published in 2012).
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
A picture book about William Kamkwamba, a 14 year old boy suffering through the drought that occurred in Africa. William's interest in how things work and the ill effects of the drought lead him to a library, where he learns about windmills. He dreams of building a windmill for his family and village. Good for teaching children about hardships and how to overcome them.
Haiku summary
An African boy
Lights his village with the wind,
Earns my great respect

No descriptions found.

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This immensely engaging tale relates how an enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity, and a future, to his family.

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