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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition Hardcover – January 19, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–7—This youth edition of the original adult book of the same title has been skillfully adapted for middle grade readers. Kamkwamba recounts a period from his childhood living in a small Malawi village. His family was poor, but they got by working as farmers. Kamkwamba was in elementary school, about to graduate to secondary school, when the drought and famine of the mid-2000s upset the patterns of local life. The author deftly describes the devastating effects upon his family: they ate insects, and rations were reduced to only a single mouthful daily. Many around them suffered even worse. Somehow, the family struggled through until the rains returned to nourish a new crop, but they couldn't afford Kamkwamba's school fees. He farmed with his father but also discovered a local library, where he taught himself to engineer a windmill to draw water to irrigate the fields. Those around him thought he was crazy as he salvaged motor parts, a PVC pipe, his father's broken bicycle, and anything else he could find. Kamkwamba did successfully harness the wind, managing to light his family's house, charge community cell phones for a small income, and pump irrigation water. A school inspection team saw the windmill and brought educators to see the teen engineer, who was invited to speak at the African TED conference and given a scholarship. This is a fascinating, well-told account that will intrigue curious minds, even the somewhat anticlimactic closing chapters describing Kamkwamba's education. There is also a picture book version of this tale (Dial, 2012), making it of interest to all-school reading programs. An inspiring, incredible story.—Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

"[An] inspiring story of curiosity and ingenuity." — Publishers Weekly

"This book will appeal to adults eager to impart an uplifting Third World human-interest story, but it is also sure to resonate with children who will simply love the curiosity, resilience and resourcefulness of this doughty African youth." — Wall Street Journal

"A powerful, gorgeously illustrated children's picture book." — The Boston Globe

"This is a dynamic portrait of a young person whose connection to the land, concern for his community, and drive to solve problems offer an inspiring model." — School Library Journal

"Zunon illustrates handsomely, with contrasting cut-paper-collage details and broad, sere landscapes painted in visibly textured oils." — Kirkus

"This picture book in accessible free verse will draw kids who love to construct their own engineering gadgets." — Booklist

Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s 2013 Best-of-the-year list. — CCBC

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 910L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803735111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803735118
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Ritchie on January 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I confess to being a big fan of the adult version of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind." It is one of the most moving stories I've ever read. But how can you translate 30,000 words into a children's picture book?

William Kamkwamba (24) and co-author Bryan Mealer have simmered the adult memoir into a fine-cuisine reduction of just 1000 perfectly-chosen words, illuminated by the oil-and-cut-paper illustrations of the very talented illustrator Elizabeth Zunon, who grew up in the Ivory Coast. Her use of color, composition and form informs while it entertains. While the story is linear, kids will enjoy re-viewing the multi-hued spreads to spot the tremendous detail evident on every page.

Born and raised in Wimbe, Malawi, William Kamkwamba was just 14 when he was forced to drop out of high school for lack of school fees, because his family needed every kwacha (Malawian money) for food to survive a deadly famine. Against this life-and-death backdrop, William, determined to created a future for himself, went to a recently-built community lending library. There he saw a picture of a windmill on the cover of a 8th grade U.S. science textbook called Using Energy. The book said you can use a windmill to pump water or generate electricity. That would help his family overcome hunger through crop irrigation and save money on kerosene for light. The kerosene funds could then be spent on more food.

On the spot he decided to build a windmill, but he had no money or idea how to do so. While trying to solve this puzzle with the help of his loyal cousin and his best friend, he was mocked by members of his community who believed the boy was going mad, though William enjoyed the full support of his parents and six sisters. His quest to realize his windmill forms the core of "The Boy Who...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anon in Texas on May 30, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
There may be much to admire in this story. However, there's also a lot of darkness. While I'm not opposed to some darkness in a book for children, the dark parts were too graphically described in this book for sensitive children. Kamkwamba gives a vivid description of starving, complete with details for specific people. He tells about how friends urged him to kill his dog instead of allowing the dog to starve to death. In the end, to keep his friends from killing his dog for him, he took his dog into the woods and left him tied to a tree so that the dog would finish dying in that place.

It's the amount of detail in these scenes which became quite disturbing. These aren't brief bits which allow a child to glimpse the horror while keeping a bit of emotional distance. Instead, the book includes page after page of descriptive passages about the people who were literally starving to death, the agonizing decision about his dog, and what he found when he returned to the spot where he'd left the dog.

The School Library Journal review suggests this book for grades 4-7, but I consider this book highly inappropriate for children at the younger end of that range. Even some children at the upper end of that age range will find the book disturbing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By xaviervilalta on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
i knew about the story of William through his TED Talk in TED Global in Africa and i thought that it would not be possible to reflect his spontaneous character and curiosity behind his achievements in another format, and in any case a book.
I must admit this book does. It is beautifully illustrated, the colors and the illustration style seem inspired by African artisan paintings which i think it is wonderful. Also the text and the images are perfectly matched, both graphically and meaningfully.
This book blows your mind for few seconds and i believe William is a new standards of 21st century children's super heros.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adital Ela on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
An amazing story to share and spread with the next generation of thinkers and dreamers! The book is enchantingly beautiful and utterly inspiring! Every child should b exposed to its pivotal message!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Stoetzel on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The children's version of this story is beautiful and well-written, with some of the most stunning illustrations you've ever seen. It's is one of those rare children's books that is also delightful for adults to read over and over again. The story sends about a million great messages (without being at all in-your-face about it), including an important one about perseverance. My daughter absolutely loves it, and was inspired just recently to make her own version of a windmill out of wood and duct tape. We haven't quite got it generating power yet!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By misssnailpail on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have watched the TED talks by William, the boy in this children's book. The story, the messages, the artwork are unique and inspirational for children everywhere to find how to connect their imagination with the real world. To follow their intuition and passions, and trust their wisdom. Actually a great read for all because every parent and adult needs to remember that their dreams to provide and create a healthy world for their loved ones are possible to reach. And if ideas seem crazy, just might be ingenious solutions.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gabriella GM on January 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Even if this book had been fiction, it would have been an inspiring and beautiful story. Knowing that it is actually true, and that William and his windmill are out there, somewhere in the world, makes it an absolutely thrilling and touching story; a great reminder for the young and not so young of how courage and imagination are paramount in life, capable of changing our life and the lives of people around us.
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