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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9971356,781 (4.1)239
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.
  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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Subtitle: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

This is the memoir of an extraordinary young man, the son of a Malawian farmer, struggling in poverty and through famine and drought, but following the spark of inspiration, his own thirst for knowledge, and a desire to help his family and community. William saw a need and thought, “What if?” As he explained to a TED conference, “I tried, and I made it.”

What he did was electrify his family home with his makeshift windmill, constructed from miscellaneous parts he scavenged from a scrapyard. Unable to attend school because his parents lacked the funds to pay tuition, William relied on the library, and one specific book on physics which he read over and over and over again. He did not despair that he lacked this or that device or material, rather he saw possibilities in the least likely bits and pieces. And he remained focused on his goal of improving his family’s life and ability to succeed.

Brian Mealer co-authored the memoir, as Kamkwamba’s English was pretty basic at the time he sat down to tell his story. Still, it’s not the best-written book I’ve read, but the emotion of the story is what elevates it, in my opinion.

His story is inspiring and uplifting. Bravo!

(Note: There is also a young adult edition of his memoir, which, I assume, has less of the technical science / engineering in it. In his life, Kamkwamba has since gone one to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. He continues to work to improve the lives of his countrymen.) ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 31, 2022 |
A kid in Malawi, frustrated with famine and ignorance in his village, and unable to afford the fees to go to school, visits the library instead. He learns to build a windmill that powers electricity to his house for the first time using finds from the scrapyard, hard work, & ingenuity. He overcame a country’s superstition to become a highly successful African entrepreneur aiming to improve his world. I love this book! This kid is my hero! ( )
  KarenMonsen | Jan 30, 2022 |
A great inspiring story about a boy in Malawi who build a wind turbine and tower out of salvaged parts. William Kamkwamba couldn't afford to pay his school fees after the crops failed and he had to leave school. That did not stop him from continuing to learn on his own. He has since been invited to give a TED talk and been able to return to school. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
William Kamkwamba was no ordinary child from Malawi. He had imagination, ambition, and a curiosity that couldn't be kept down even when his family couldn't afford to send him to school. His drive was to improve his family's situation after a severe drought left the landscape barren and his community on the brink of starvation, but really he loved to learn. He loved school so much he found a way to sneak into classes after he had been kicked out for nonpayment. Once found out he resorted to borrowing books at the library. One particular physics textbook resonated with him. Using money from a wealthy friend and the knowledge gained from reading and scrounging for supplies anywhere he could find them (flip flops, his father's bicycle, melted PVC pips, the spring from a ball point pen...) Kamkwamba set out to build a windmill. His first invention in 2001 was modest, creating enough power to light a lightbulb. From there, Kamkwamba went bigger - enough to charge cellphones and light his parent's living room. The bigger the windmill, the more he could power. Soon his ambition went beyond his family and friends to extend to his entire community of Wimbe and he attracted the attention of powerful people ( )
  SeriousGrace | Aug 18, 2021 |
William Kamkwamba is a Malawian boy who is fascinated by science. His farming family wants him to continue his education past roughly the elementary level but they just don’t have the tuition money after a famine spreads across the country. As the famine worsens, families who have even a few bites of food each day are considered fortunate. Life gets harder and harder.

Eventually the famine does start to ease and William begins visiting the library regularly. He finds a couple of physics books and becomes fascinated with the idea of wind power. He looks around his village, collects mechanical “junk,” and starts to literally build a better life for his family and his village.

What an inspirational story! William and his family have almost nothing by Western standards but they do have each other. William has dreams and the willingness to teach himself and try. That takes him farther than he could even imagine.

The part describing the famine was extremely difficult to read. People starve on the roadsides. Pets must fend for themselves or die. No one can think about anything except hunger. Corrupt politicians make the situation so much worse than it had to be. Government thugs punish local leaders who speak out against the corruption. It’s an unimaginable situation. This section takes up about half the book, so readers who are sensitive to these kinds of things might want to steer clear. It feels important to read though because most Westerners truly can’t conceive of what a famine is like. I know I have a better appreciation now for my local grocery stores and farmers markets.

William persists in his dreams and his self-education despite all the adversity he faces. He truly believes he can make a difference and make life easier for his family. He patiently collects what he needs and one of his best friends, the village chief’s son, believes in William enough to give him the money for parts he has to buy. We don’t all have William’s ingenuity, but we can all help dreamers, even if it’s just by having faith in them.

The edition of the book that I read had an afterward to update us on William’s life as of 2016. He’s come so far and invented so many things that make life easier for innumerable people. I’m proud of a man I’ve never even met. He proves that one person can make a difference to a lot of people. He’s also quick to point out that a lot of benefactors have helped him on his path, proving again that we can all contribute in some way to building a better world.

Some of the content is going to be difficult for some readers but ultimately, this book is brimming with hope and the affirmation that one person can change the world. Highly recommended. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Aug 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (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 (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kamkwamba, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mealer, Bryanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Schuck, MaryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arthus-Bertrand, YannPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
ブライアン・…secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barata, Saulsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cavándoli, MargaritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chike JohnsonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
田口 俊樹翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delarbre, AliceTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hymas, AnnaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerner, Jamie LynnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuck, MaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zunon, ElizabethIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
池上 彰(解…その他secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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

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Average: (4.1)
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2 8
2.5 4
3 41
3.5 24
4 120
4.5 26
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