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

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

by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer


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A windmill means more than just power, it means freedom."

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala-crazy-but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty¬dollar¬a¬year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once¬forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity-electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. Asecond machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo-his "electric wind"-spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world. Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061730337
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/27/2010
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 290
Sales rank: 712
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

William Kamkwamba was a 2007 TED Global Fellow and a finalist for the Tech Museum Award. He is a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Bryan Mealer is the author of All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo. He is a former Associated Press staff correspondent and his work has appeared in several magazines, including Harper's and Esquire. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
By William Kamkamba, Bryan Mealer

William Morrow Paperbacks

Copyright © 2010 William Kamkamba, Bryan Mealer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061730337

Chapter One

Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic
ruled the world.
Magic and its many mysteries were a presence that
hovered about constantly, giving me my earliest memory as a
boy—the time my father saved me from certain death and
became the hero he is today.
I was six years old, playing in the road, when a group of herd
boys approached, singing and dancing. This was in Masitala village
near the city of Kasungu, where my family lived on a farm. The
herd boys worked for a nearby farmer who kept many cows. They
explained how they'd been tending their herd that morning and
discovered a giant sack in the road. When they opened it up, they found
it filled with bubble gum. Can you imagine such a treasure? I can't
tell you how much I loved bubble gum.
"Should we give some to this boy?" one asked.
I didn't move or breathe. There were dead leaves in my hair.
"Eh, why not?" said another. "Just look at him."
One of the boys reached into the bag and pulled out a handful
of gumballs, one for every color, and dropped them into my hands. I
stuffed them all in my mouth. As the boys left, I felt the sweet juice
roll down my chin and soak my shirt.
The following day, I was playing under the mango tree when a
trader on a bicycle stopped to chat with my father. He said that while
on his way to the market the previous morning, he'd dropped one of
his bags. By the time he'd realized what had happened and circled
back, someone had taken it. The bag was filled with bubble gum, he
said. Some fellow traders had told him about the herd boys passing
out gum in the villages, and this made him very angry. For two days
he'd been riding his bicycle throughout the district looking for the
boys. He then issued a chilling threat.
"I've gone to see the sing'anga, and whoever ate that gum will soon
be sorry."
The sing'anga was the witch doctor.
I'd swallowed the gum long before. Now the sweet, lingering
memory of it soured into poison on my tongue. I began to sweat; my heart
was beating fast. Without anyone seeing, I ran into the blue gum grove
behind my house, leaned against a tree, and tried to make myself clean.
I spit and hocked, shoved my finger into my throat, anything to rid my
body of the curse. I came up dry. A bit of saliva colored the leaves at my
feet, so I covered them with dirt.
But then, as if a dark cloud had passed over the sun, I felt the
great eye of the wizard watching me through the trees. I'd eaten his
juju and now his darkness owned me. That night, the witches would
come for me in my bed. They'd take me aboard their planes and force
me to fight, leaving me for dead along the magic battlefields. And as
my soul drifted alone and forsaken above the clouds, my body would
be cold by morning. A fear of death swept over me like a fever.
I began crying so hard I couldn't move my legs. The tears
ran hot down my face, and as they did, the smell of poison filled
my nose. It was everywhere inside me. I fl ed the forest as fast as
possible , trying to get away from the giant magic eye. I ran all the
way home to where my father sat against the house, plucking a pile
of maize. I wanted to throw my body under his, so he could protect
me from the devil.
"It was me," I said, the tears drowning my words. "I ate the
stolen gum. I don't want to die, Papa. Don't let them take me!"
My father looked at me for a second, then shook his head.
"It was you, eh?" he said, then kind of smiled.
Didn't he realize I was done for?
"Well," he said, and rose from the chair. His knees popped whenever
he stood. My father was a big man. "Don't worry. I'll find this
trader and explain. I'm sure we can work out something."
That afternoon, my
father walked eight kilometers
to a place called
Masaka where the trader
lived. He told the man
what had happened,
about the herd boys coming
by and giving me the
stolen gum. Then without
question, my father
paid the man for his
entire bag, which amounted
to a full week's pay.
That evening after
supper, my life having
been saved, I asked my
father about the curse,
and if he'd truly
believed I was finished. He
straightened his face and
became very serious.
"Oh yes, we were just in time," he said, then started laughing in
that way that made me so happy, his big chest heaving and causing
the wooden chair to squeal. "William, who knows what was in store
for you?"
Me as a young boy standing with my father in Masitala
village. To me, he was the biggest and strongest man in
the world.

My father was strong and feared no magic, but he knew all the
stories. On nights when there was no moon, we'd light a lamp and
gather in our living room. My sisters and I would sit at my father's
feet, and he'd explain the ways of the world, how magic had been
with us from the beginning. In a land of poor farmers, there were too
many troubles for God and man alone. To compensate for this
imbalance, he said, magic existed as a third and powerful force. Magic
wasn't something you could see, like a tree, or a woman carrying
water. Instead, it was a force invisible and strong like the wind, or a
spider's web spun across the trail. Magic existed in story, and one of
our favorites was of Chief Mwase and the Battle of Kasungu.
In the early nineteenth century, and even today, the Chewa
people were the rulers of the central plains. We'd fl ed there many
generations before from the highlands of southern Congo during a
time of great war and sickness, and settled where the soil was reddish
black and fertile as the days were long.
During this time, just northwest of our village, a ferocious black
rhino began wreaking terror across the land. He was bigger than a
three-ton lorry, with horns the length of my father's arms and points as
sharp as daggers. Back then, the villagers and animals shared the same
watering hole, and the rhino would submerge himself in the shallows
and wait. Those visiting the spring were mostly women and young girls
like my mother and sisters. As they dipped their pails into the water,
the rhino would attack, stabbing and stomping them with its mighty
hooves, until there was nothing left but bloody rags. Over a period of
months, the feared black rhino had killed over a hundred people.
One afternoon, a young girl from the royal Chewa family was
stomped to death at the spring. When the chief heard about this, he
became very angry and decided to act. He gathered his elders and
warriors to make a plan.
"This thing is a real menace," the chief said. "How can we get
rid of it?"
There were many ideas, but none seemed to impress the chief.
Finally one of his assistants stood up.
"I know this man in Lilongwe," he said. "He's not a chief, but he
owns one of the azungu's guns, and he's very good at magic. I'm certain
his magical calculations are strong enough to defeat this black rhino."
This man was Mwase Chiphaudzu, whose magic was so superior
he was renowned across the kingdom. Mwase was a magic hunter.
His very name meant "killer grass" because he was able to disguise himself as
a cluster of reeds in the fields, allowing him to ambush his prey. The chief's
people traveled a hundred kilometers to Lilongwe and
summoned Mwase, who agreed to assist his brothers in Kasungu .
One morning, Mwase arrived at the watering hole well before the
sun. He stood in the tall grass near the shores and sprinkled magic
water over his body and rifle. Both of them vanished, becoming only
music in the breeze. Minutes later, the black rhino thundered over
the hill and made his way toward the spring. As he plunged his heavy
body into the shallows, Mwase crept behind him and put a bullet
into his skull. The rhino crumpled dead.
The celebrations began immediately. For three days, villagers
from across the district feasted on the meat of the terrible beast that
had taken so many lives. During the height of the festivities, the chief
took Mwase to the top of the highest hill and looked down where the
Chewa ruled. This hill was Mwala wa Nyenje, meaning "The Rock
of the Edible Flies," named after the cliffs at its summit and the fat
delicious flies that lived in its trees.
Standing atop the Rock of the Edible Flies, the chief pointed
down to a giant swath of green earth and turned to Mwase.
"Because you killed that horrible and most feared beast, I have a
prize for you," he said. "I hereby grant you power over this side of the
mountain and all that's visible from its peak. Go get your people and
make this your home. This is now your rule."
So Mwase returned to Lilongwe and got his family, and before
long, he'd established a thriving empire. His farmland produced
abundant maize and vegetables that fed the entire region. His people
were strong, and his warriors were powerful and feared.
But around this time, a great chaos erupted in the Zulu kingdom
of South Africa. The army of the Zulu king, Shaka, began a
bloody campaign to conquer the land surrounding his kingdom, and
this path of terror and destruction caused millions to flee. One such
group was the Ngoni.
The Ngoni people marched north for many months and finally
stopped in Chewa territory, where the soil was moist and fertile.
But because they were constantly on the move, hunger visited them
often. When this happened, they would travel farther north and ask
for help from Chief Mwase, who always assisted them with maize
and goats. One day, after accepting another of Mwase's handouts,
the Ngoni chiefs sat down and said, "How can we always have this
kind of food?"
Someone replied, "Eliminate the Chewa."
The Ngoni were led by Chief Nawambe, whose plan was to
capture the Rock of the Edible Flies and all the land visible from
its peak. However, the Ngoni did not know how magical Chief
Mwase was.
One morning, the Ngoni came up the mountain dressed in
animal skins, holding massive shields in one hand and spears
in the other. But of course, Chief Mwase's warriors had spotted
them from miles away. By the time the Ngoni reached the hill,
the Chewa warriors had disguised themselves as green grass and
slayed the intruders with knives and spears. The last man to die
was Chief Nawambe. For this reason, the mountain was changed
from the Rock of the Edible Flies to Nguru ya Nawambe, which
means simply "The Deadly Defeat of Nawambe." This same hill
now casts a long shadow over the city of Kasungu, just near my
These stories had been passed down from generation to
generation, with my father having learned them from my grandpa. My
father's father was so old he couldn't remember when he was born. His
skin was so dry and wrinkled, his feet looked like they were chiseled from
stone. His overcoat and trousers seemed older than he was, the way they
were patched and hung on his body like the bark of an ancient tree. He rolled
fat cigars from maize husks and field tobacco, and his eyes were red from
kachaso, a maize liquor so strong it left weaker men blind.
Grandpa visited us once or twice a month. Whenever he emerged
from the edge of the trees in his long coat and hat, a trail of smoke rising
from his lips, it was as if the forest itself had taken legs and walked.
The stories Grandpa told were from a different time and place.
When he was young—before the government maize and tobacco
estates arrived and cleared most of our trees—the forests were so
dense a traveler could lose his sense of time and direction in them.
Here the invisible world hovered closer to the ground, mixing with
the darkness in the groves. The forest was home to many wild beasts,
such as antelope, elephant, and wildebeest, as well as hyenas, lions,
and leopards, adding even more to the danger.


Excerpted from The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkamba, Bryan Mealer Copyright © 2010 by William Kamkamba, Bryan Mealer. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Emeka Okafor

“Beyond opening the door to a nascent genre of African Innovation literature, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind makes excuses about why Africans can’t change their fates untenable. This potent, powerful, and uplifting message is the heart of William Kamkwamba’s courageous story.”

Nicholas Negroponte

“William Kamkwamba is an alchemist who turned misfortune into opportunity, opportunity beyond his own. The book is about learning by inventing. William’s genius was to be ingenious.”

Alex Steffen

“Wonderful! I challenge you to read this story of one young man changing his corner of the world with nothing but intelligence and perseverance and not come away more hopeful about the prospects for a brighter, greener future.”

Seth Godin

“A moving, touching, important story. One more reminder of how small the world is and how powerful the human spirit can be.”

Amy Smith

“ In this book, the spirit, resilience and resourcefulness that are Africa’s greatest strengths shine through.... The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable story about a remarkable young man and his inquisitive and inventive mind.”

Erik Hersman

“A rare and inspiring story of hope in rural Africa....William represents a new generation of Africans, using ingenuity and invention to overcome life’s challenges. Where so many tilt at windmills, William builds them!”

Al Gore

“William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.”

Chris Abani

“William will challenge everything you have thought about Africa, about young people, and about the power of one person to transform a community. This beautifully written book will open your heart and mind. I was moved by William and his story and believe you all will. Essential, powerful and compelling.”

Chris Anderson

“I first met William on stage at TED.... His story, told in just a couple of minutes, was both astonishing and exhilarating. This book proves what those few minutes hinted at: a remarkable individual capable of inspiring many to take their future into their own hands.”

Cameron Sinclair

“A powerful read. This book takes you on a journey to discover pure innovation and the unfolding story of a natural genius. A true vision of struggle and tenacity to make a bold idea become a reality. This should be required reading for anyone who dares to dream.”

George Ayittey

“An inspiring tale of an African Cheetah—the new generation of young Africans who won’t sit and wait for corrupt and incompetent governments—or vampire states— to come and do things for them. Here is one who harnessed the wind to generate electricity for his village—on his own.”

Walter Isaacson

“This is an amazing, inspiring and heartwarming story! It’s about harnessing the power not just of the wind, but of imagination and ingenuity. Those are the most important forces we have for saving our planet. William Kamkwamba is a hero for our age.”

Mark Frauenfelder

“One of the best books I’ve ever read.”

Nathaniel Whittemore

“The book abounds with themes that resonate deeply: the idea that with hard work and persistence comes triumph; that optimism is not a mental state but a type of action, that from grief and loss can come success.”

Carter Roberts

“This book.... is a testament to the power of a dream and the freedom that comes from accomplishing a sustainable way of life. Read this book, act on its message and pass it on.”

Ethan Zuckerman

“I was moved first to laughter, and then to tears by William’s explanation of how he turned some PVC pipe, a broken bicycle and some long wooden poles into a machine capable of generating sufficient current to power lights and a radio in his parents’ house.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 196 reviews.
gl More than 1 year ago
Even if you don't usually read nonfiction or memoirs, I still think that you'll love this book for the writing, the story, and because of William Kamkwamba. William tells the story of his childhood in the small agricultural village in Malawi. From the the general bias towards magic and superstition over science, the crippling impact of the drought, and the isolation and difficulties that William, his village, and Malawi, the obstacles that they face are huge and clear. Reading the book, I first thought that my experiences in the "Third World" helped me understand the William's life from the superstition to the the impact of the drought and the opportunistic price gouging during the famine. But that interpretation fails to give enough credit to William and his book. The power of his story and the clarity of the writing surely guarantee that The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will speak to people regardless of their experience and their home country. I cannot recommend this book more! I look forward to more news from William Kamkwamba and to meeting him during his book tour stop in NYC. Publisher: William Morrow (September 29, 2009), 288 pages. Courtesy of the Harper Collins and the author.
NSALegal More than 1 year ago
Part a snapshot of Malawian rural life & struggles, part an autobiography tracking the evolution of Mr. Kamkwamba's experiments and self-instruction through his teens, the book is a concise and well fleshed out story of overcoming adversity. The emotional and physical environment is very well conveyed from start to finish, making it easy to imagine being right there with him, every step of the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book very enlightening, inspiring, and eye opening. I suggest everyone who has a heart to read ths story. I ended the book with the feeling of pride for William. It is always a good thing when anyone will do whatever it takes to achieve their desires and goals. Its easy for us as Amerians to take advantage of all that we have available to us and not appreciate them. We are spoiled, and we don't take the time to realize how needy others are around the world. This book has made me more appreciative what I have and has inspired me to help others in need. I enjoyed the book so much that I bought a second copy for my 15 year-old son.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful story. It is inspiring, enlightening. One boy gave the power of a windmill to his family. But by sharing his story he has sent hope and courage into the world.
C-Step More than 1 year ago
As a reader who is more interested in fiction than non-fiction, I was not certain what I would get when I began reading this book. But by the end, I realized I got not only satisfaction, but also a new look on dealing with adversity. The autobiogrpahy tells of how William Kamkwamba, an impoverished boy living in Malawi, Africa, is able to rise out of total poverty to create a windmill that brings electricity to his home town and inspiration to people around the world. The story is an absolute delight to read. It is full of anecdotes about Malawi that are both funny (the stories of witchcraft) and horrifying (the stories of eating sawdust to survive). In addition, the book illustrates Malawi as a whole by weaving the history and condition of the nation into the life of young William. The vivid realities of hunger and HIV are described without the stereotypical portrayal of Africa as the victim continent. However, some readers may be disturbed by the details, so be careful who you give this book too. Readers also may dislike the fact that the book is lacking in descriptions of landscape and setting. I found myself conjuring up the landscapes that I had seen in children's books about lions and elephants. Despite this, the relatively simple language of the book provides clarity to the reader, and results in the autobiography reading more like a novel. As a whole, the book was nearly impossible to put down, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes such novels as Three Cups of Tea, or who wants to both learn and be inspired.
British-jo More than 1 year ago
This book was totally absorbing. A tale from Africa without War! The description of life before & during the drought was compelling. I finished this & then set about making teachers at my kids school aware of it. Both the science teacher & world geo were enthralled, would b a g8 bk 4 middle schoolers to read & an excellent one for the whole family to read & discuss. Can't rave about it enough. Look him & the book up on utube - both the Jon Stewart interview & the mini documentary about him are equally inspiring/entertaining.
roselyndeere More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book once William’s story was blogged on every site on the Web. I was fascinated that he brought such improvement to his family with just a single electric bulb. This book really highlights so much of what I take for granted in my comfortable suburban life. 
quibecca More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting read.  I didn't know what to think about it at the beginning.  I know I have said this before, but I don't usually read book like this.  I read to escape reality, not read about it.  This was so interesting though.   While reading this book, I thought to myself over and over "how spoiled am I?".  This young man was poor, and wanted to go to school so bad, but had to give it up because his family couldn't pay for it.  Again, I thought, "man how lucky!  I HATED school".  Well, after reading this book, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity that I had to attend school.   William was an amazing young man.  He worked hard, and did things he had to to make things better for himself and his family.  He studied books in the library that he was interested in, and learned things on his own.  Sometimes by trial and error, but isn't that how we all learn things?   This reference may offend some, but this young man made me think a lot about some people in the scriptures.  He built something, and all the while people made fun of him.  It wasn't until they saw the result of his windmill, that people started to respect the work William was doing.  It made me think of Noah, and Nephi.  Why is it so hard for people to accept that others may have more inspiration than others?  Anyway, just a thought. I love the story in this book about how his parents met.  It is so sweet and so innocent.  Then when William meets his wife it's kind of the same thing.  It's sweet, and super cute.  This young man was such a great example of not giving up.  He wanted to learn, he wanted to build, and he wanted to make things better for his people. To me it doesn't seem like all that long ago that this book took place.  So, I was just a little blown away, at how different Williams life was compared to mine.  While his country was in a famine I was comfortably sitting in my house with plenty of food to eat, and water to drink.  It really made me reflect on all the blessing I have.   While William, was building his windmill and having so many problems with it, all I could think is "man, this young man should see Palm Springs, CA".  Well, in the book he gets invited to Palm Springs, to see the windmill farms.  While he was struggling to build ONE, we in America had thousands.  It was so eye opening to me on so many levels. This young man went through a lot of hardships in his life, yet he always worked hard, and never gave up.  I love William.  I think he is the kind of man, that I would like my son to become.  He is intelligent, kind, inventive, loving, and a hard worker.  All great qualities.   I really enjoy reading, and learning from this book.  It was enlightening, and so what I needed to read right now.  I will have to remember this book, and many others I have read, when I start to feel "down" about what I have and what I don't have.  After reading this book, I have absolutely no room to complain.  I am blessed beyond measure.  I am so thankful for all the good things that happen to William because of his hard work.  I am sure even today he is an amazing man.  He is the perfect example of "you can do anything, if you put your mind to it"! Source:  I purchased this book from Amazon for myself.  I am not affiliated with Amazon, and was not compensated for this review.  These are my own PERSONAL thoughts on the book.
arthurauthorart More than 1 year ago
William Kamkwamba is a clever man that was not swayed by what the neighbors thought. He created a windmill from virtual garbage and changed the opinions of his neighbors. He was no longer crazy but had harnessed magic. This is a wonderful memoir of innovation. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most inspirational stories I have ever read. You will not be disappointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This remarkable journey of William Kamkwamba will leave readers very inspired and enlightened. I personally loved this book, from when he told us about his family, his dog Khamba, and the hardships he faced, to his great triumphs such as his windmill and the TED confrence. This book is well-written and I'd gladly recommend it to anyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book and gave a copy to two of my grandchildren. It shows how one young man did amazing things because of his drive for an education and the drive to help his family and village. It, also, shows how lucky we are to live in a free country with so many opportunities, and how others suffer with not even enough food to eat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It astounds me to have lived such an easy life while this amazing young man was helping his family stay alive. An easy read that will probably be of even greater interest to men. I reommend it to all my friends.
Bischoff More than 1 year ago
Puts you there. What an incredible journey. Very inspiring story that will keep you reading all night. Passing it onto the kids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An inspiring read that reminds us how lucky we are to have electricity and running water.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story of ingenuity! I admire his persistence and scientific methods.
JanesList on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am glad to have read this book, EXCEPT I really wish it had been made clear that a large portion of this book was about how the author's family and country were affected by a devastating famine. While I think it helped to understand the author's life and dreams, it could be hard for more "sensitive" readers (I have a hard time reading about horrors because they stick in my head). The portions of this book that were about engineering would make great reading for a junior inventors club. I wanted to try some of the things myself! I just wish they had been a bit clearer.
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An inspiring story that opened up my awareness to something of what it is like to live in a society primarily dependent on subsistence farming in the 21st century. There is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new: e.g., many people have cell phones, but not many have electricity, so there are charging stations where you can pay a small fee to recharge your phone. Although the title makes you think it's really all about the windmill, it takes half the book to get there. First we need to get a picture of life in this African family, the desire for education and stability, and the precarious situation that a family is placed in when dependent on weather and government policies. Very interesting, and a joy to get to know this young man.
LainaBourgeois on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him.
ursula on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this story of a boy who manages to bring electricity to his family's home in a Malawian village rather uneven. The subject matter was a bit of a mismatch for me, really, since I have no background nor much of an interest in science. When he began describing the details of his experiments with voltage and electricity, I could definitely appreciate and admire the ingenuity, but I still skimmed to get back to the more general topics. I enjoyed the book, though, and feel that it has a lot to offer in terms of the experience of life in Malawi and the horrible reality of famine, in addition to the ability of the human spirit to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. Sometimes not knowing any better is the only way to accomplish something.
riversong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great read about a boy who brought electricity to his African village.
yeremenko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An inspirational story of a determined young genius. William Kamkwamba tells his remarkable story with patience and honestly. It is not until half way through the book that he gets to his invention of the windmill that changed his life. Without the back story that helps us understand his setting and his family, the rest of the book would not have context. The story of the famine in Malawi is in itself worth the purchase price of this book. The painstaking description of his family gradually running out of food is as riveting as anything I've read. Often the book does not live up to the story, but this an exception. A truly remarkable book.
rapago on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by this book. I liked the way William was honest about himself, his country and the things that happened to him. His writing was quite humble and I could not help but identify with him and sympathize with him.How can one read this book and not be thankful for all the things we take for granted? We flip a switch and a light comes on. We turn a tap and clean, drinking water comes out. We flush a toilet and our waste is taken away. Things we take for granted he sees as wonderful luxuries.I admire the way William sought out his own education when his father could not pay for his schooling. Would that children in this part of the world were as eager to learn. The question then becomes, how do we build this eagerness in the children here in Canada?Thank you, William for your positive message and example.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From My Blog....Deeply moving and thought-provoking, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkawmba and Bryan Mealer is a look at William¿s creative dreams made reality. This book is a beautiful retelling of William¿s life, beginning with his childhood, which was filled with a mixture of witchcraft, God, folklore and ultimately, of science. I was completely drawn into the stories of the Malawians as well as the various beliefs and superstitions. The details of day-to-day life of the average Malawian astonished and humbled me. William and his friends learned creativity at an early age, their ability to use whatever was available as material to make wonderful creations astounded me. I was fascinated by the history of the Lao and Chewa and appreciated the details and the history. While the book is a memoir, the focus is to show the reader what lead William, with the assistance of his friends, to create a windmill so people of the village could enjoy running water and electricity. The memoir builds up to the actual construction of William¿s windmill, which is definitely worth reading about and while I found his self-taught ingenuity nothing short of brilliant, it was the day-to-day activities that captured my heart. I would not hesitate to recommend The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind to any reader and I believe this book would make an excellent choice for any book discussion group.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
William Kamkwamba was just a young boy in a small village in Malawi. His family, like most of the villagers, were poor farmers and could not pay for William to continue his education beyond the elementary level. While William was discouraged by this, he ventured to the very small library in the elemntary school which had only three floor to ceiling shelves of books. He read science and physics books learning about windmills and decided to try to make one in hopes of creating enough electricity to power one light bulb so he could study after dark. He later hoped he could help his family through one of the many droughts and famine which affected his own family and the other villagers. Often having only mouthfuls of food each day, William went throughout the junk yards and nearby small town looking for parts to use in creating his windmill. His family and friends thought this was certainly strange behavior and while they loved him, they had little faith in his success. But using the most rudimentary equipment, William was successful and built first one windmill at his home and then a second windmill at the elementary school. Visiting the school, Malawian officials sought to meet the young man who was so dedicated to his own learning. Ultimately William was placed in an upper level school and also invited to attend a TED Global Conference. Finally meeting with other inventors and scientists at this conference, William was introduced to a multitude of knowledge - Google for one, but more importantly William stood with other Africans who were also inventors and he was pround of his heritage and continent. Unbelievable, belongs in every school library - from elementary to college; and should be read by all who think hope and dreams don't have great power!