Friday, September 25, 2009

Faces of the Moon

"Each month the Moon transforms her face,
which grows and shrinks at steady pace.
Her changing looks reveal her place
in orbit 'round our globe."

This early passage in Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin and illustrated by Leslie Evans sets the tone of this children's book. The first part of the book explains the phases of the moon in rhyme while diecut page tabs and diecut moon in the middle of each illustration walk readers through the progression of moon phases.

As the "first stepping stone toward discovering our universe," the author explains in educational text in the back of the book how the earth, moon and sun orbit each other in plain language. He also includes some "Moon Memo-Rhymes", short, rhyming memory aids to remember key facts about the moon and its phases.

This is a terrific book with which to introduce children to basic facts about the moon that will reinforce their own observations in the long tradition of sky watchers and astronomers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

"Creating currents of electricity and hope" is the subtitle of this amazing memoir - The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Thanks to a three-shelf library full of cast off books and his own persistence and ingenuity, William Kamkwamba is able to build a windmill out of cast off trash (including a broken bicycle) to generate enough electricity to light his house at night and play a radio.

In the first two-thirds of the book, William tells us about his family, his village, his life and the challenges of living a poor, subsistence life in Malawi -a small, land-locked, politically corrupt country in southeastern Africa. The only son of a close, hardworking, farming family, as a result of famine William's family is no longer able to pay his school fees and he drops out of secondary school. It is his greatest wish to return to school and he spends hours each day in this "library" reading and studying the old textbooks so that when he returns to school, he will be able to stay even with his peers. It is in these books that he finds the basic information about creating energy.

In a rural village that is dependent on both the whims of nature and the government, William and his family hammer out a life that revolves around the planting of the next crop of maize.Except for the rare intrusion of things like cell phones or planes, the life they lead is very much like the life their grandparents led.

Once the first windmill is completed and word begins to spread of William's marvel, an extraordinary sequence of events follows that leads William to the TED conference where he flies in an airplane, stays in a hotel, sleeps on a real mattress, and learns about laptop computers and the internet all for the first time. At the TED conference (an international thought-fest of the smartest people with ideas and inventions in technology, entertainments and design), William meets people who literally change his life and bring him into the 21st century.

His intelligence, drive and search for a way to make his family's life just a little better sets him on a path to international stardom and eventually finds him at an African school with other exceptional African students like himself all with the commitment to creating a new Africa - one of humane leaders that can lead the people to a better life through education, health care and infrastructure.

It is a marvelous story. It's hard for us in the U.S. or any western nation for that matter to believe that such subsistence, "third-world" life can still be so prevalent in our world. This young man's journey again proves the difference that one person can make. The book is being released this month. Look for it; buy it; read it. I highly recommend it.