The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition

by William Kamkwamba

Other authorsBryan Mealer (Author), Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2012

Call number



Dial Books for Young Readers,US (2012), Edition: Illustrated, 32 pages


"When 14-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought in 2001, everyone's crops began to fail. His family didn't have enough money for food, let alone school, so William spent his days in the library. He came across a book on windmills and figured out how to build a windmill that could bring electricity to his village. Everyone thought he was crazy but William persevered and managed to create a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps. Several years later he figured out how to use the windmill for irrigation purposes"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Book Report: The book description says:
When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone's crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring
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electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

Lyrically told and gloriously illustrated, this story will inspire many as it shows how - even in the worst of times - a great idea and a lot of hard work can still rock the world.

My Review: Four stars for the delightful story of a young man who does NOT allow cuts in education funding caused by economic crisis to interfere with his learning, for the clear benefit clearly ascribed to the public library donated by the US Government, for the tale of a vision pursued and a piece of the world changed because of it, and for a man telling his story so that no one can feel it can't be done.

The half star is all down to the lovely mixed-media illos by Elizabeth Zunon. The young man's face and his family's presence in soft pastels contrasted with the three-dimensionality of the maize, the sun, nice a counterpoint it made.

Friend Joe Welch praised this book, so I'm happy to credit him with the shove to read it. My mood improved markedly after reading the book and absorbing its implication that a person can indeed change his world by simply refusing to allow negativity to stall him. Mr. Kamkwamba, thank you for making an old man's day brighter.
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LibraryThing member christiq
This book was about when fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought and everyone's crops began to fail. This book focused on how Malawi figured out how to bring electricity to his village.
LibraryThing member smeyer8
This book is a biography about a boy named William living in a poor city without electricity. In the back of the book there is an entire section about William with more detail. I really liked this because it allows the reader to learn more about the main character and background knowledge of the
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story. It is also an optional section to read. William is a very imaginative boy who asks a lot of questions. He has very little food and only one meal a day that consists of a "handful". His family has no money so he needs to drop out of school to work. This really saddens William because he loves to learn and explore. He often dreams about the library filled with books that was a girl from the Americans. He read a book about a pinwheel and thought, "A giant pinwheel? Something to catch magic?" This shows William's creativity and imagination. William decided he wanted to build a pinwheel. He found garbage and materials but as he dragged them home people called out, "This boy is misala. Only crazy people play with trash!" William was a very determined boy and this did not stop his dream. In the end he creates a pinwheel that works and all of the people are impressed. "Magestia mphepo--electric wind--can feed my country, William thought. And that was the strongest magic of all." The illustrations are colorful, realistic, and 3D looking. The illustrations show a realistic example of the setting. I liked how in the book they used some examples of William's native language. The story is interesting while also discussing the character's real life stories. The plot is organized and easy to follow. The big idea of this book is imagination, determination, and goals.
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LibraryThing member MelynnReadmond
This informative biography is very enjoyable to read. This biography is about a young boy in a small village who found a way to provide for his struggling village. He took small pieces of scraps along with the knowledge he learned from the local library to build a windmill. He learned how to turn
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the energy the windmill created to help move water through fields and warm houses. The illustrations make this book enjoyable to read. The illustrations display a child’s view and wonder since the little boy’s expressions display his “light bulb” idea and then his joy when the invention worked. The illustrations also reiterate the collage idea of the little boys invention since the illustrations are a collage of other medias. The plot line also helps make this story enjoyable since the plot follows the introduction to climax to resolution model. The story travels through introducing the area and the boy to the lack of food and water to the building of the successful windmill and the use of the energy produced. Overall the big idea is that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
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LibraryThing member chrisriggleman
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
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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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LibraryThing member cm37107
Is the story of one boy's quest to discover and invent an alternate means of power through the use of Wind power. William's courage, belief and innovative spirit in his vision in the face of his community's disparaging remarks benefitted the entire village.
LibraryThing member bwinte3
In this book you read about a boy William who lives in a rural area of Africa called Malawi where his father is a farmer and William helps out on the farm until he has to go to school. In the book William is interested in the way things work and how they work. In the book it tells how a drought
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came and William’s father had no crops coming up so they had to go down to one meal a day and then as the book goes on it tells how more and more people in the area where dying from starvation from no rain. Well because Williams’s father was a farmer they had no crops so his family couldn’t afford to send him to school anymore, because school is not free in Malawi and so William remembered that there was a library that the Americans had built that he could go to and read. So William went to the library and was reading and saw a windmill in one of the books and he had a dictionary to figure out what the pictures where saying because most of the books where in English and he had to translate them into his language. So William saw in the books that the windmill provided electricity and water. William says he is going to build one to save his father’s farm. So William gets all the parts he needs to build and windmill from the junkyard. He starts building the windmill and it takes him a long time with people just looking at him calling him crazy and finally his friends help him finish the windmill and when the windmill works and lights up a light bulb all the villagers were in amazement. After that William went on to build more windmills to bring electricity and water to his farm so they would not starve.

I enjoyed this book because it shows a different cultural perspective then people might be used to reading about. In the book Williams’s family are farmers in a village in Africa where they depend on the land to feed them and make money from their crops. Through looking at the perspective of this little boy, this makes people think about tough issues like starvation in other cultural areas. Such as in the book when villagers where dying from not being able to grow any food because of the drought in the area. I like that the plot of the story relates to the authors real life in which he built windmills in his village to bring water and electricity so they could grow crops all year long. I like that the author tells you in the back of the book how he started with one windmill and how he ended up with several for the village.
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LibraryThing member jegammon
Response - I had learned about William Kamkwamba because one of my students did a report on him. I also watched his TED talk. I think this books captures his warmth and passion. This book is appealing to both children and adults.

Curricular connection - read aloud; guided reading; units on
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innovation, role models, or biography
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LibraryThing member sarahetuemmler
This is about a boy who generated electricity from wind using a windmill. He built the windmill himself as he realized an electric wind could feed his country. He had an idea about generating electricity from wind so one night he built a windmill from scratch. He was successful and powered a
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lightbulb from his windmill. This is an example of a realistic fiction as the boy who invented this windmill is a real human being. Not all of the events described in the book was exactly what happened but the main events are true.
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LibraryThing member KellieMcFadzen
I had mixed feelings about this book. The main message of this book was determination, and determined is defiantly a character trait of William. One of the reasons why I liked this book was because of how the characters strengths were portrayed in this book. For example, even though everyone in his
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village doubted him, he overcame their doubts and showed how hard working he was and determined to achieve his goal. For example, he dreamt of building a windmill and his neighbors doubted him, but he eventually reached his goal and overcame his neighbors’ doubts. I also liked this book because children could relate to William. For example, if people ever doubt a child and their ability to achieve their goal, like they did for William, this book can inspire the readers to overcome their doubts and follow their dreams.
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LibraryThing member DaliaL.
Genre: non-fiction (informational)
Why it fits this genre: The book contains accurate information.

How I would use this book:
1. I would use this book to beginning a study with students about wind power, droughts, and water sources.
2. The book says that William used the library across the road, "a
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gift from the Americans", to have access to the information found in books. I could have students focus on this section of the book and ask questions regarding William's success and the role the United States played in impoverished countries.

Summary: This book is about a boy named William who lived in the town of Malawi, Africa, an impoverished town. As a child, William worked in the fields with his family and went to school. However, all of this changed when there was a drought that dried the maize field. Due to this, the people of Malawi began to starve and were unable to make money. William had to drop out of school because he could no longer afford it. One day, William went to a library in his town. The books were all in English but William used a dictionary to understand the information in the books. He read about windmills and learned that the can produce electricity and pump water. William thought that if he built his own windmill, he would be able to help out his community. The people in his town thought that he was crazy. However, William's was able to create a windmill that produced electricity and aspired to build one that could soak up the ground and end the famine.

Media: oil and cut paper

Critique: "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" is a good example of an informational book because all of the book is based on the accounts of a first person. For example, the book was written by William Kamkwamba and another author. Therefore, William had a huge influence on the information that is presented in the book.
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LibraryThing member sarahetuemmler
This book is all about the boy who invented the windmill. It would be a great book to start with in an engineering unit because it is a story all about invention. I could do a read aloud with this before talking about different inventions and engineering things.
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Necessity is the mother of invention, and nowhere is that old adage more evident than in the true story of William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian boy who built a windmill on his father's land, in order to bring electricity to his family home for the first time. Facing possible starvation due to a
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drought-related famine, and unable to attend school, William began to investigate the machinery he found so fascinating at a nearby library set up by Americans. Here he discovered the idea of the windmill, and set out to build one of his own. Although some in his village laughed at him, he persisted, and soon achieved what had hitherto been only a dream: electric power...

Although I have been familiar with the story of William Kamkwamba for a number of years, since the publication of his memoir in 2009, I have never happened to pick up any of the versions of his story, be it the original edition intended for adult readers, the young reader's adaptation done in 2015, or this picture-book retelling created for younger children in 2012. I'm glad that I have finally rectified that oversight, as Kamkwamba's story is certainly inspirational. This picture-book telling is engaging, and is paired with the vibrantly colorful oil paint and cut paper illustrations of Elizabeth Zunon, whose work I know from such titles as One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, as well as her own Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family. Recommended to young dreamers and inventors, and to picture-book readers looking for stories about overcoming great challenges with creativity and perseverance.
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