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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity & Hope
by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, HarperCollins, 2009, 273pp

January 15, 2010
Reviewed by Anna Jonas, general book buyer, CSB and SJU Bookstores, [email protected]

This is the inspiring true story of William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi, in southeast Africa, who grows up with only a few years of formal education. He has plans to study science in a boarding school, but is forced to drop out of school at a young age because his family is unable to pay the $80 per year tuition. In 2002, William's village, along with all of Malawi, suffers through a drought, which leads to a devastating famine. Thousands of Malawi people starve to death as a result. William's family manages to forage for food and barely survives.

During this time, William visits the local library and discovers a physics book, Using Energy, a book about windmills. William dreams of building a windmill to bring electricity and water to his village so that drought and famine can be eliminated. William spends much of his time in a local junkyard, looking for parts to build his machine. At age 14, he builds a crude, yet operable windmill, using discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind chronicles William's determination to complete his machine, which eventually powers four lights, charges cell phones and operates a water pump. His device is complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. The people in his village, who originally distrust and mock his ideas, grow to respect him. Word spreads to the outside world of William's windmill and he is invited to speak at conferences and forums about his inventions. He now is attending school at African Leadership Academy, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an amazing and uplifting story of how a young man's determination and will overcome many hardships to better the lives of his family and village. The book is written by William, with help from writer Bryan Mealer. It includes photographs of William, his family, and his windmills.

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