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Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 29, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 562 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel may be junk to most people, but in the inspired hands of William Kamkwamba, they are instruments of opportunity. Growing up amid famine and poverty in rural Malawi, wind was one of the few abundant resources available, and the inventive fourteen-year-old saw its energy as a way to power his dreams. "With a windmill, we'd finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger," he realized. "A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom." Despite the biting jeers of village skeptics, young William devoted himself to borrowed textbooks and salvage yards in pursuit of a device that could produce an "electric wind." The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring story of an indomitable will that refused to bend to doubt or circumstance. When the world seemed to be against him, William Kamkwamba set out to change it. --Dave Callanan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops ("three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen"), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors "disguised... as green grass" and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is "replaced by the business of survival" after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using "electric wind"(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of "Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage." 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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061730327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061730320
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (562 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Doctor.Generosity TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the story of William Kamkwamba, a clever boy in Malawi, Africa who built his own windmill from found materials at age 14. Much of the energy of the book is that it is a very recent story, the main events taking place just in the last six years.

The story is in three parts. The first part tells of Willam's life growing up and that of his father, giving a fascinating glimpse of the village life of subsistence farmers whose culture has changed little in thousands of years. Daily existence includes very real fears of witchcraft, shamans for healing, and strong currents of superstition. Although written in clear, simple narrative (mostly by the co-author, Bryan Mealer, an AP reporter with extensive experience across Africa), it is by no means a child's bedtime story. Malawi, an interior country of 13 million, has minimal health care, primitive agriculture, and no free public high schools. Villagers can be killed by wild animals in the forest. In 2001 the maize crops failed, plunging the countryside into famine and near social collapse, and William loses friends to disease and starvation. The government comes off badly in this episode, incompetent, brutal against the local village chief who complains, and corrupt.

William is a bright boy eager for school, but his family cannot afford the fees. He is forced to drop out. In the second part of the story, doing the best he can in spite of this disappointment, William finds an elementary physics textbook in a local library and sees diagrams of windmills - he cannot even read the English text. From this bit of information, with impressive focus and persistence he manages to build his own version from scraps of wire, an old bicycle hub, and flattened PVC pipe for blades.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After barely surviving a famine in Malawi (sub-Saharan Africa), 14-year-old William Kamkwamba was determined to find a way to make life better for himself and his family. What if he could somehow bring electricity to his village, to pump water for crops in times of drought? Using diagrams in an old forgotten science book called "Using Energy" that he found in a grade school library, he cobbled together a contraption out of scraps and junk that worked to power a few light bulbs -- and changed the life of his village forever. His neighbors, steeped in superstition and with little or no knowledge of science, thought him crazy. But he had a gift for mechanical things, he understood the principles, and he knew he could do it. And he did. Eventually he got a second windmill going, powering a water pump from a deep well, which is now used by all the women in the village. Today every house there has a solar panel and a battery to store electricity, too.

But this is much more than a story about an African boy who built a working windmill. It's a monument to the human spirit. In fact, we don't even get to making the windmill itself until halfway through the book. In the first half, William tells us a lot about his life in Africa, the terrible famine that swept his land, how he and his family survived, and the clues along the way which eventually led to him making the windmill. Even as a little kid, he was taking apart radios to see how they worked -- with no books or training, just trial and error. Then he saw a bicycle light that ran from a mechanical dynamo -- the kind that generates electricity when you pedal. Experimenting with this, he figured out how to get it to power his radio when he turned the bike pedals.
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8 Comments 135 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I didn't really know what to expect when I purchased this book for my Kindle, although I will admit that I noticed the high marks (5 stars) from the other reviewers. So I decided to give it a try and see what the hype was about.

For the first 10% of the book (Kindle doesn't have page numbers) I really was regretting the purchase. The pages were filled with stories of William (main character) as a young boy and the various predicaments he found himself in. The stories told of magic and witchcraft that caused all kinds of terrible things to happen and the overall direction of the book seemed to bounce back and forth from story or idea to another story or idea. I found myself thinking that these stories were so farfetched, how is the remainder of the book going to integrate these magical tales. At that point, I wasn't looking forward to reading more of the book. Nevertheless I persevered and was happily rewarded.

As William grows older (relatively speaking), the story - rather than witchcraft and magic - turns to real life events (famine and hardship) which actually brings you closer to William and his family. Not that many of us can relate to devastating famine where it wipes out entire populations, but it does help us understand what William had to deal with during such a trying time. Some touching moments are created in these pages and definitely rewards for turning the pages.

Once William begins his journey of harnessing the wind, for me, this was the most interesting part of the book. It truly was fascinating to me to not only learn how some of the things we take for granted (like electricity) can play such an integral role in communities that are essentially third world countries but also how one would go about constructing things with no money.
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7 Comments 150 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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