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

by William Kamkwamba

Hardcover, 2009

Call number

333.79 K



William Morrow (2009), 273 pages


Now a Netflix Film, Starring and Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave 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. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala-crazy-but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.… (more)

Media reviews

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.
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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.
Publishers Weekly
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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cmbohn
In the LDS Church, we are encouraged to fast for two consecutive meals on the first Sunday of every month. It's not just 'going hungry' - we are to ask for spiritual help with something, or to bless someone else, and to pray for an increased measure of the Spirit as we fast. Then we take the money
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we would have spent on those meals and donate it to the Church for the support of the poor in our area. I must admit that I am not great about following this practice. We have always been faithful in the payment of our fast offerings, donating as much as we could, much more than the cost of the food itself, whenever we can. But the going without food part is hard for me.

This weekend I grabbed a library book that will forever change how I look at the fast. It's called "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," by William Kambewamba. William grew up in the African nation of Malawi, the son of a farmer. His family would grow maize, or corn, and tobacco every year, milling the food they needed for themselves and using the money they earned to provide for their needs for the year. One year they had planted their maize, as usual, but the rains didn't come. For weeks the crop struggled along, with the seeds barely breaking through the soil. Then the rains came, but all once. The seeds were washed away in a flood. William's family planted again, but they couldn't afford fertilizer and the crop didn't have enough time to grow before the harvest. The entire nation was affected.

His family got their grain milled, one bag at a time, but they had only five bags to last them all year. At first, they hoped that the government would come through with the food they needed. But instead, corrupt officials sold what grain they could and the surplus disappeared. So people starved. When the grain was almost gone, the hungry people took the husks of the corn, the green part I throw away every time I cook corn, and ground that up and ate it. When it began to run out, they mixed the husks with sawdust and at that. They ate the leaves of the pumpkin vines. They even ate the seed corn, scrubbing off as much insecticide as they could. William's family saved their seed corn, but they were down to a tablespoon of food or so a day. Then it was time to plant. With their bellies aching from hunger, and sometimes too dizzy to stand and temporarily blinded, they found the strength to plant their seeds. And then they prayed. The rains came, and the people had food again.

As I read William's story, and his desperate attempts to gain an education and break this cycle of subsistence farming, I found myself thinking about my cupboard full of food. All those stories of 'children starving in Africa' and how I needed to clean my plate ran through my head. And yet, what would William have done with my breakfast cereal, my mashed potatoes and meat loaf, my tuna casserole? They wouldn't have even known what it was, much less how to cook it.

Last night I prepared for my fast today with a completely different attitude. It wasn't that by fasting I could somehow bless those who are hungry in tiny nations across the world. It wasn't even that I could somehow alleviate the hunger of those in this country. It was because I needed to remember that food is a blessing, that I am lucky to have enough to eat. If we run out of food and money again, I know that I can count on my church, on my government, on my family. The stores have plenty of food. But over the history of the world, most people were not that lucky. So my fast becomes an act of gratitude that I am blessed, and a reminder that I need to help others who are not so lucky.

This was an amazing book. William's father ran out of money so could not pay for his son's education. William had to quit school and go to work on the farm. He tried to keep up with what his classmates were learning and found the local library. There he found books on electricity, physics, and energy. He decided to build a windmill. He scrounged parts from the junkyard, took apart radios and engines, and got help from his friends, but he succeeded. He was able to use his windmill to provide energy for little light bulbs in his house so he could see to read at night. Soon word of his project got out and he attracted the attention of journalists and scientists. They helped him make his windmill stronger and safer, dig a well so his family could have clean water, replace his grass roof with a tin one, and provide electricity for his entire village. It is an amazing story of determination and triumph over adversity that will inspire anyone. And it changed the way I look at what I have. I have a cupboard full of food, clean water with the turn of the faucet, a sturdy house, electricity and heating, a way to keep myself and my clothing clean. I am not afraid of soldiers with guns taking what I have. I can send my children to school for free. I can go to the doctor when I am sick.

I am blessed. And I need to remember that.
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LibraryThing member _Zoe_
What an amazing story! I can't remember the last time I read such a gripping work of non-fiction, if ever; I tore through this book yesterday afternoon/evening despite having other things that I should have been doing, and came away thoroughly satisfied. Even before I read the book, I was hooked by
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the premise: a Malawian boy, living in the midst of poverty and famine and with limited educational opportunities, reads about windmills in a library book and decides that electricity is the solution to his family's problems. So, using various scraps of metal and relying heavily on the book's diagrams, he goes ahead and builds his windmill. And it works.

It was so nice to read a positive book about Africa for a change. The problems aren't hidden; there's plenty of talk about famine in particular, including good explanations of the reasons behind it, but the overall outlook is optimistic. I also liked book's the writing style (it was co-written with a former journalist), found Kamkwamba easy to relate to, and generally enjoyed the whole reading experience. I have a feeling this will end up in my Top 5 for the year.
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LibraryThing member bragan
William Kamkwamba is from a small village in Malawi, where very few buildings are wired for electricity, and even those are subject to frequent blackouts. Like most people in Malawi, his family are farmers, but from a young age he was extremely interested in technology, often taking radios apart to
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see how they worked. Then, when he was in his early teens, the country was stricken by a terrible famine. Unlike many, his family survived, but it took all their resources to do so, which meant his parents could no longer afford the fees charged by secondary schools in Malawi and he had to drop out. Afraid of falling behind if and when he was able to return, William began studying from English-language textbooks he found in his village school's tiny library, which led to him teaching himself the basics of electrical engineering from a physics book. Those books also introduced him to the concept of a windmill, to which his main reaction, essentially, was, "Hey, if I built one of those, I could listen to music on the radio any time I wanted! And maybe even run a water pump to irrigate the fields so we could grow more crops and avoid another famine." So he did, MacGyvering the thing together using homemade tools and parts scavenged from a scrapyard. And it worked.

Most supposedly "inspirational" stories strike me as emotionally manipulative and just tend to put me off, but this, this sort of thing, to me is genuinely inspiring. Not only is it a wonderfully impressive example of technological ingenuity and drive, as well as a testament to the power of knowledge and learning, but it's also a demonstration of how people anywhere can help to improve their local communities. And while I read this mainly because I was interested in the story of the windmill, I also found the earlier chapters, describing Kamkwamba's childhood and his experiences of living through the famine, extremely interesting, as they offered me a first-hand look at a place and a culture I was almost entirely unfamiliar with.
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LibraryThing member dk_phoenix
The one thing I have to say about this book is: Everyone should read it.

Adults, children, teenagers, male or female. This book should be required reading in schools, universities, community groups, you name it…

The book itself is about William’s life as a young boy in Malawi, about his
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family’s life during a very bad famine year, and how William taught himself about physics and electricity and built a windmill to power his family’s radio. William’s efforts grew until he was noticed by a figure on the international stage, and who eventually introduced him to the right people until he received a scholarship to attend University.

The first amazing thing about this is that William, an unschooled, poverty-stricken boy from Africa, was able to rise against the odds and use his brilliant mind to make something of himself. It’s clear that William is an extremely skilled and talented man, and I’m so thankful that his story was brought to the world, for another reason…

The second amazing thing about this book is that William discusses famine and living through it as though it’s simply a part of life. He never sensationalizes, never gives off a ‘poor me’ or ‘woe was our family’ or ‘Africa is horrid’ vibe, nothing of the sort.

Instead, he tells his story in a matter of fact way, simply telling us what happened and what it was like, and honestly? It’s more vivid than those World Vision ads on TV. It’s more real than hearing from the media that ‘people are starving in Africa’. Want to understand what that really means? See through William’s eyes what happens to a person’s body when there’s no food… how it bloats until the skin is like putty, how people simply dropped dead on the roads as they walked half a mile to try and get some rations, how the President of Malawi denied that anything was wrong and refused to let food and aid supplies into the country, how a family of six can live on only a fistful’s worth – total – of food per day, and sometimes less…

After I read William’s story, I was compelled to pass the book on to the rest of my family.
We who live in first-world countries can never truly understand what it means to starve until we’ve either experienced it first hand, or seen it with clear vision through the eyes of someone who actually lived it and survived.

William’s story will change the way you look at the world. It’ll pull at your heart and you may find yourself crying out for change, for some way to help these people, and you may ache to do something – anything – to help. There are so many children all over the globe who have so much to offer the world, just like William, but if conditions remain the same… frankly, they’ll all die (and already are) and the world will continue to lose brilliant minds to a thing as stupid and senseless as hunger.

Again, I implore you, read this book. There’s also a website in conjunction with the book where William talks about how he came up with the idea to build the windmill and other sorts of things, and I encourage you to view those as well.

This is Willliam’s story, and it’s worth hearing.
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LibraryThing member LizzieD
I had intended to give The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind maybe three and a half or four stars, but now that I have finished it through tears, I think it deserves five. William Kamkwanba has written the story of present-day Malawi and of his life as a small farmer's son in a small central Malawian
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village. I'm guessing that the reading level is about sixth grade, and the book feels like one of those High Interest/Low Level books that schools buy for high school students who don't read well. Nevertheless, the story makes putting up with the naive narration worthwhile - and, in fact, since William didn't learn much English until he was a young adult, even that is amazing.
Anyone who wants to know about Malawi should read this book. William's life was a strange mixture of Christianity and belief in witches and other superstitions. He worked hard on a subsistence farm with his father until a drought in 2001 brought famine in 2002. At this point the laundry list language becomes completely authentic and eloquent. Those 75 pages about famine taught me more than any television program ever has. William's family survived both because they had a little more than many people going into the famine and because his parents were smart enough and enterprising enough to risk their remaining food stores at the crisis to sell little cakes for enough money to buy new meal each day to feed themselves and make more cakes. However, when the rains came and a new crop was finally harvested, William's father had too many debts to send William to secondary school.
At that point at fourteen, William discovered a small, local library and began to read the books which changed his life. He had always been curious about science, and with Explaining Physics in hand, he conceived the idea of building a windmill to provide electric lights for his family's home. His scientific explanations made as much sense to me as anybody else's (by which I mean, "not a lot"), but his ingenuity and determination left me breathless. This was a windmill made from PVC pipe heated and then hammered flat; of a nail heated red-hot and used to bore holes in metal; of a nail wound about with copper wire for an electromagnetic coil; rubber from cast-off flip-flops for a wall-switch. His eventual success eventually brought him international recognition and an opportunity to pass on his technology to his neighbors in his village.
By book's end William was in South Africa in school with plans to use everything he learned for his family and his country. Like the delegates to a technological convention that he attended, I am inspired by his message, "And I try, and I made it."
(Thank you, LT for this inspiring book!)
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
This book was one that brought me joy. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba tells his story of how, growing up in the drought-ridden, poor country of Malawi, he dreamed of one day building a windmill like the ones he read about. His goal was to bring electricity and water to his
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village. He planned on studying and learning what he needed to at school, but that plan was cut short when his parents could not afford the tuition fee and he was needed at home to help forge for food to stave off starvation.

William held onto his dream and with the use of old science textbooks, scrap metal and bits he could find, he managed to cobble together a workable windmill that provided enough energy for four lights, eventually a second machine was assembled that became a water pump. This boy who was called “crazy” by many achieved his dreams and became an inspiration to others.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is so much more than an instruction guide to building windmills. This story is a vivid memoir of this unusual young man who grew up in extremely difficult conditions and found a way to bring freedom along with power to his village.
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LibraryThing member Irishdart
Malawi is a small African country in a constant state of struggle with hunger, drought and political upheaval. Relying on his belief in magic and, ultimately, in the magic that is science, William builds a machine to create “electric wind,” a windmill. His stated purpose is to ease his large
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family’s suffering by providing a way to produce electricity and pump water but what he really does is create hope. His limited education and his community’s jibes about being crazy are not barriers to accomplishing his purpose. Never shy of confidence, all he needs is a little creativity, some miscellaneous parts and a library book to make his dream come true. It isn’t long before news of his accomplishment spreads outside of his small community and the world comes knocking to help him expand his idea to his whole village. This is his story told in his own words with all the excitement of discovery and renewed hope.
William Kamkwamba’s enthusiasm for life is evident not only in his inventions but also in his voice. His confidence, positive attitude and perseverance are obvious in both how he tells his story and in the story itself. He credits his father, his friends and his community for his experiences and positive character traits but it’s his voice that proves his character. It speaks to all of us who struggle with day to day existence. He is a role model for teens and adults. This book is highly recommended for high school libraries as a supplement to curriculum on self motivation, alternative energy, and cultural identity. It is also recommended for addition to public library collections. Grades 9-12+
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LibraryThing member ImBookingIt
I went into this book wanting (and maybe even expecting) to love it. I didn't. I liked it, but was overall disappointed-- maybe more so because I had glimpses of the book I was expecting to read.The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind starts with page after page of anecdotes and description of life in rural
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Africa, of the people, and of the author's experiences growing up. It wasn't until page 67 that I saw anything related to his eventual windmill building.Most of these stories were interesting in and of themselves, and some of it was necessary to set the scene, but they weren't what I was looking for in this book.It wasn't until 2/3 of the way through that the story I was looking for and expecting really kicks in, and I really enjoyed the final 1/3 of the book. I spent a lot of my reading time thinking about how the story could have been told differently to make it work. I came up with a number of ideas (interweaving the early and later parts of the story, having the book be a series of inter-related short stories, not all of which had a technological theme, adding in a parallel story of one of the other people he met late in the book).What it came down to was that the story I wanted wasn't really enough to fill the book.Except I'm not even sure that was true. In spite of the author's narration, I only felt I had a superficial knowledge of him and how he thought. One example is his school exams. He's obviously a bright guy, and he talks about the time he spends studying for the exams that determine what school he will be allowed to attend. He anxiously awaits the results. They aren't good, and he is assigned to a very low ranking school. I never found out why, and how he felt about this.If you are interested in a stories of the challenges of African life, give this book a shot.
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LibraryThing member MusicMom41
I finished this book ten days ago and am still having trouble trying to find the words to convey the powerful impact it has had on me. This year I started a project to read about Africa, naively thinking it would make a good year’s study. I now realize that I will be reading in the area for
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several years and will even then have more to explore. My focus right now is to read books written by Africans to get the personal perspective of those who live there. I was delighted to receive this ER book because it not only is a personal memoir of a young man in Africa, it also takes place in an area where I have a personal connection. The son and daughter-in-law of a friend of mine live in Malawi and are the directors of an orphanage there. I have visited with them when they are on home leave and heard about and seen pictures of their work there. This is an area where I have some personal knowledge of what is happening and it made the book very vivid for me.

William Kamkwamba begins his story by telling of his childhood and relating how many of the values he learned were shaped by the folk tales that were told to him when he was a child. In the first part of the book we learn about daily life in Malawi, social customs, family and community relations, and a little about the politics from the time of their independence until now. We see some of the influences which shaped Williams personality and contributed to his determination to try to help his family. We also see the beginning of the dream of being able to bring electricity to his house and to his community to improve both life and working conditions there.

The second part of the book tells of the devastation of the famine of 2002 for most of the people in the country and how one of the consequences for William and his family was that they now could not afford to send William to school. How William deals with this disappointment without losing sight of his dream and what he eventually accomplishes with the help of his friends and later with the help of “strangers” makes for one of the most inspiring memoirs I have ever read.

Bottom Line: I am grateful that this book was about Africa because otherwise it might never have attracted my attention and I would have missed a wonderful experience seeing what the power of the human spirit can transcend if in the face of all obstacles it still strives to accomplish its dream. Highly recommended
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LibraryThing member queencersei
The novel begins by recounting the life of William Kamkwamba, who grew up in the African country of Malawi. William has a typical childhood, playing with his friends, fighting with his sisters, taking apart and re-building radios and helping his father on their family farm.

In the year 2000 a
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drought strikes Malawi, destroying the many of people's crops, including Williams family.
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LibraryThing member khuggard
This is a moving and inspiring story that would have been even better with some tighter editing. I had read so many glowing reviews of this book that I was rather surprised to find myself bored about 2/3 of the way through. True, the descriptions of the famine were horrifying while the accounts of
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of William's ingenuity were amazing. But the repetitive narrative and overly simple tone were getting a little tedious.

But I kept reading because I decided that the ending of this book must be so fantastic that every single reviewer must have forgot about the tediousness of reaching that ending. I was right. It was amazing to see little William Kamkwamba go from village tinkerer to International speaker, and just like the other reviewers I was feeling a little starry eyed about this book. But I would be doing a disservice to potential readers if I let my final impression of the book cloud my initial impression. I truly wish the writing were just a little bit better because it is a book that I would love to recommend to teenagers as an inspiring story about innovation and the value of education. As it is, I would worry that all but the strongest readers would give up before they got to the really good part.

P.S. As a librarian, I especially love the fact that William got his initial idea for building a windmill from a book he checked out at the local library.
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LibraryThing member hatheado
Kamkwamba recounts his poverty-stricken childhood in Malawi. Famine, limited access to education, death, disease, witchcraft, seem to be the norm for everyone around him. Still, he knows there is a better life out there. Even though his family lacks the funds to keep Kamkwamba in school, he gets
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access to a local library and begins to read voraciously. He focuses on science, and electricity in particular, and designs a windmill made from junkyard parts and an old bicycle. It takes him a long time to get the right parts and the people around him make fun of his endeavor, but he shows them all in the end, when his family finally has electricity in their hut. After that his opportunities expand when his success is written up in the local newspapers.
As in so many memoirs, the story is interesting, but the writing is just work-a-day. The details of what it was like to survive during a famine were particularly compelling. A bit amusing was seeing the US through Kamkwamba's eyes on his first visit to the states. Still, the reader longs for a bit more introspection and depth. Kamkwamba remains opaque throughout, and it is difficult to know if that is the co-writer, the cultural and language barriers, or if he simply chooses not to share more deeply. Parts of the account seem to lack focus on who the audience is, especially chapter 13 about vampires, supernatural beasts, and witches. Kamkwamba presents these as fact. Here is an example: "This often happens while we sleep--the witch children can take our heads and return them before morning, all without us knowing. It's a serious problem." At first I thought this was tongue in cheek, but I quickly concluded that these beliefs are widespread and accepted in Kamkwamba's world. I found myself wishing that he had couched this chapter with more cultural context for those of us who have different belief systems.
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LibraryThing member greenvillian
Very interesting, but could have benefited from better editing of story.
LibraryThing member TimBazzett
While it begins rather slowly with tales of witchcraft, black magic, spells and widespread ignorance, this book picks up momentum when its author begins to tell of the terrible famine that Malawi endured while he was a teenager. His descriptions of the agonies of constant hunger and the skeletal
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(or hunger-bloated) wraiths that wandered the roads and villages during these days are indeed heartwrenching. Then when he tells of his financial hardships which keep him out of school and how he begins to visit the village library to educate himself - to try to keep up with his peers - the narrative begins to really pick up. His accidental discovery of the power of windmills and how they might be used to generate electricity move the story still further along, and as William Kamkwamba haunts the local junkyard to find parts to build his own "electric wind" machine, one begins to feel the awful hunger and thirst for any knowledge that might make a better life for the author and his family and friends. Jeered and ridiculed as "crazy," Kamkwamba perseveres, and, with the help of a couple of close friends, he succeeds in building his windmill and generating electricity. Eventually he gains some local, and then national and even international fame. While Kamkwamba is not doing anything new with his windmill, his accomplishments place him far beyond his farmer kinsmen and countrymen. Told in the plainest prose, this may not exactly be a rags-to-riches story, but it is certainly a tale of determination and dreams come true, when Kamkwamba gains admission to a good school to continue his education. One can only wonder what this young man will make of himself in the future. This book would be very suitable as Young Adult (YA) reading, and could also be shelved under Inspirational books. I salute Mr. Kamkwamba for his ingenuity and spirit and wish him nothing but the best.
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LibraryThing member jeanie1
Necessity is the mother of invention - that is the underlying theme of this amazing story. A third world country, a young boy with little education and a dream - to create a device to generate electricity.
I will not not recount the story here, I advise you to read the book. Well written, funnny
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and sad, it the a story of hope.
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LibraryThing member pmpayne
This book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, grabbed my attention right away in the preface. What a wonderful story about a young boy who had a dream and brought it to reality through determination and hard work. The support of his father was crucial and it showed the importance
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of a local library to someone like William. Being a retired librarian it made my heart sing to see the importance of one in this small area.

His interest in science and in improving life for his family and the village is truly touching and gratifying. To see someone who can live in poverty and rise above it to create something so useful out of bits and pieces of stuff is truly amazing. What a wonderful young man.
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LibraryThing member LibrarysCat
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
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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!
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LibraryThing member rakerman
Not just the story of the windmill, this is actually a full biography of Mr. Kamkwamba's life, with all of its challenges.
LibraryThing member dulcibelle
This is a wonderful memoir about a boy from Malawi who built a windmill from scavenged parts and provided electricity for his home. Reading this memoir is like sitting across from William in a coffee shop, chatting about life. Raised in a terribly poor country, unable to afford schooling beyond the
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primary school in his village, William taught himself about windmills and electricity from books in the three shelf library in his town. This is a riveting story.
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LibraryThing member lalawe
There are tons of reviews telling you what this book is about - a poor African boy with little education whose goal is to bring his people out of poverty. I found the book a little slow to get into, but overall, it was as absolutely wonderful and inspiring as billed.
LibraryThing member alexann
William recounts his life as the only son in a poor farming family in Malawi. Through fruitful times on the farm to terrible famine, he simply tells what it was like for him. Along the way we learn about daily life in Africa, the way national politics affect the life of the farmers, the scourge of
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drought, the cycle of deforestation, the fear of disease, from AIDS to cholera. It's all here, told in William's easily accessible prose. He also speaks of his insatiable curiosity, his desire to know how things work. It was this curiosity that lead him to the little library in his town--three shelves of old books sent from Britain and America. Although his English wasn't good, he studied ferociously, reading and working through diagrams until he taught himself the basics of electricity and physics. Then he went to work, scouring back yards and garbage piles searching for the perfect parts to build his dream--a windmill to bring electric power to his village! William's story is terrible and wonderful, full of despair and hope. Above all, it's so inspiring to see what a young person can achieve through curiosity mixed with hard work and persistence.
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LibraryThing member psocoptera
No book has brought home the value of literacy and access to books the way William Kamkwamba's autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind did. People who read stories about developing nations tend to take away from them whatever perspectives they bring to them. When i recommended this book to a
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friend at the wind energy association, I fully expected that he would focus on the value of renewable energy in rural areas. When I recommended it to a friend in the international rural electification field, I anticipated comments on the changes access to electricity brings to a rural community. I focused on the book that started it all, a donated U.S. textbook. Mr. Kamkwamba crystallizes the American ideal of the self-made man. An autodidact and Junkyard Wars style engineer, this imaginative young man found an unusual solution to the famine that nearly destroyed his family. He built a windmill from scraps with the intent of using it to pump water for his family's field. This is a very interesting book and it a moving story. Two things I noticed in this book that didn't seem quite as positive. First, Mr. Kamkwamba expressed a belief in witchcraft and the importance of prosecuting it. This may not resonate well with U.S. readers for whom the Salem witch trials are an important cultural and historical event. I also felt a bit sad toward the end when things changed rapidly in his life. It seemed as though he was a bit overwhelmed. Still, I would, and have, recommended this book to most everyone.
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LibraryThing member ReadingQueen
The only thing I didn't like about this book was that I really didn't start learning anything about the harnessing of wind until I was a little more than halfway through the book. I do understand that alot of background needed to be included at the beginning of the story to realize how important
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this invention was to young William and his community. I did enjoy learning more about the culture of Malawi. Much was said when Madonna adopted David Banda from Malawi. You can really understand, after reading this book, the life he was growing up in. I was especially moved by the pictures William painted with words of the famine the country endured.
I enjoyed this book more for the lessons it taught me about Malawi and Africa then I did about the actual creation of the wind harnessing machine.
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LibraryThing member AEmberly
From poverty comes invention!! A must read for those of us in North America who have never known starvation!
LibraryThing member DubaiReader

This is a real eye-opener of a book. Not only did the author bring electricity to his village, and eventually water, but he also lived through extreme famine after floods removed the year's crops. With only a small lump of maize meal bread between his whole family per
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day he struggled on, raising a crop for the following year.

William Kamkwamba is a young lad with a thirst for knowledge; from a young age he took radios apart and ressembled them, eventually earning himself a few kwacha repairing neighbours' radios. Sadly his family could not afford to continue his schooling at secondary level, so he went to the small library in his village and taught himself physics. He then used his learning to build a prototype windmill to see if he could produce electricity - it worked! Form there grew the larger windmill from which he produced 'electric wind'. But none of this involved pieces of machinery that we would buy in the local shops - William had to form his sails from cut up pipes, his dynamo from an old bike and his supports from chopped down Blue Gum trees.
Nothing was easy, yet he persevered in spite of ridicule and disbelief.

This is a book truly worth reading, a young man still working towards bettering his country, bringing basic needs to a impoverished people.

If you Google William Kamkwamba you will find an interesting blog, a speeech given by WK on video and an opportunity to give financially to rebuild the primary school that William attended - originally attended by about 400 but now with 1,400 pupils, no desks, no light, leaking rooves.......
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Georgia Children's Book Award (Finalist — Picturebook — 2015)
Alex Award (2010)
Nutmeg Book Award (Nominee — Elementary — 2015)
Chickadee Award (Nominee — 2014)
NCSLMA Battle of the Books (Middle School — 2025)




0061730327 / 9780061730320
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