The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

By William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator)

Book cover of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Book description

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Drought has hit a Malawi village and everyone’s crops are failing. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba figures out how to bring electricity to the village by building a windmill out of scraps from a junkyard. I love this story because it highlights the importance of education, and along with determination, William was able to build this windmill bringing electricity which helped lift this community up and bring hope. Education is the best way to lift communities up from poverty. Elizabeth Zunon provides gorgeous illustrations that enhance the text.  

This is the best book about a child who teaches himself enough about wind and electricity to save his poor, drought-stricken area from hunger and inability to farm the land. With no money to continue at school he studied books at the library. He saw a picture of a windmill and translated the English words. “Windmills can produce electricity and pump water.” Wow!  How could he make such a machine that could fight hunger? He experimented with junkyard items like old bicycle parts, melted plastic pipe, and washers from bottle caps for his invention  Some villagers helped, others teased him,…

Something I’ve always admired about many of the African people I’ve been privileged to meet is their creativity in the face of adversity. Robert Katende began his chess program with bottle caps in the dirt. Faced with a drought in Malawi that threatened his family’s livelihood, Kamkwamba got creative. I won’t spoil exactly how he harnessed the wind to forever alter his life, but his story is a triumph of ingenuity common among the people of this continent who routinely make the unbelievable believable.   

From Tim's list on young African heroes.

Non-fiction isn’t normally my style, but the language and story-telling in this book make it a must-read. William Kamkwamba’s true story of saving his family by developing a windmill is the stuff of movies—and now it is! This book (now available as a feature film and a picture book) will remind young activists that they have the skills within them to change the world. Still, they never need to do it alone.

From Bridget's list on for kids that want to change the world.

Gorgeous collage by Elizabeth Zunon brings the Malawi drought and teenager William Kamkwamba’s engineering solution to life in the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Multicultural and celebratory in tone, William’s curiosity and ingenuity take center stage, along with his engineering triumphs, while some of the harsh realities of Malawi’s famine, detailed in the adult edition of this title, are omitted. There is also a chapter book for elementary school readers and a Netflix film based on this title. Clearly, it’s a STEM story that’s perfect for any age.

From Tami's list on inspiring your young scientist.

Imagine a drought so terrible that everyone's crops fail, and the entire village falls into poverty. That's what happened to fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba in Malawi. With no money for food or for attending school, it would be easy to give up. But William was determined to find a way. He read, researched, and built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps to generate electricity to transfer water to the crops. Everything was against him, but William didn't stop trying. He persevered until he found a way to “harness the wind,” and the whole village benefitted. (Readers can also watch the…

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