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Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 29, 2009
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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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This is a story of a young man’s thirst for knowledge and an indomitable spirit. Among the hardships of his local village, poverty, and devastating famine, William Kamkwamba endured and succeeded.
The author’s spirit and determination carries him through all of these challenges. Along the way we get a picture of the crushing poverty of this region in Africa. There is a picture here that points the way for the promise of new technology.
Implementing these new technologies in the creation of wind driven electricity, creative means in the pumping of fresh water and the utilization of biogas production for fuel points the way for a brighter future for the impoverished people in Africa and elsewhere
I would like to point out that, perhaps, the donor nations should reconsider some of their project requirements. It may be that small scale projects down at the village level might bring promising results without all of the waste and corruption of large scale development projects that promise so much and often deliver so little.
This book is an inspiring read.
If you have not read this book then you really need to. It is a book that works for any age group or gender who would enjoy reading a book about personal triumph over adversity. We read it for a special event at our local book club. We chose to do a "bring a teenager" with you to discuss this particular book. It worked well as it brought a different perspective to our discussion and it was a great way of including children in a hobby that I hope they will all preserve as they grow older.
There are two lessons. The first is that we humans tend to view people from undeveloped countries as less intelligent; this story certainly refutes that idea. The second is "I want to make and I try," his explanation when he made his first TED talk at age 19 and stage fright made him forget his English.
Something else that I really enjoy about this book is that it is very well written. The writer is able to capture William's innocence. Living conditions we would consider unbearable are presented in simple honesty without complaint. Superb.
William has the talent of an inquisitive mind. While he was not the best student, he was the most curious about how things worked and why they work that way. He would have been good company for Edison and Einstein.