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.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I am so excited to have found your sight. Great review - I'm convinced! There are few things I love better than reading kids books - picture books through young adult. Thanks for adding more fuel to the fire.

Annie said...

Welcome to my blog, Shannon. It's nice to hear from you. I'm not available to add reviews as often as I'd like, but I try to do as many as I can. My policy is to not post reviews of books that I don't like, so you can count on every book being one that I liked in some way.