10 books like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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By Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Frank Morrison (illustrator)

Book cover of Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

Tami Lewis Brown Author Of Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

From the list on inspiring your young scientist.

Who am I?

From a girl who defied death to set nearly every aviation record in a rickety bi-plane, to a team of young women who literally invented computer coding with no guidance and very little credit, to a boy who revolutionized chemistry when he used the scientific method to create the color purple from coal tar, I write books about young people who followed their dreams to accomplish amazing things. There’s no reason to wait until you grow up to become a scientist. The books I’ve chosen will inspire your young scientist to explore and invent - right now!

Tami's book list on inspiring your young scientist

Discover why each book is one of Tami's favorite books.

Why did Tami love this book?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson visited New York’s Hayden Planetarium for the first time when he was just nine years old and the stars grabbed him. In Starstruck, non-fiction master Kathleen Krull and co-author Paul Brewer use relatable incidents, like a family trip when young Neil sees the dazzling night sky and decides to give up his ambition to be a baseball player to become an astrophysicist. Concepts like the Big Bang Theory and the reclassification of Pluto are explained simply but intelligently. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s road from inspired boy to world acclaimed scientist wasn’t easy, but it’s hard to imagine any kid- or adult- who won’t be motivated by this star-crossed journey.

By Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Frank Morrison (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Starstruck as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Step into Reading easy-to-read biography on science superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson, the groundbreaking American astrophysicist whose work has inspired a generation of young scientists and astronomers to reach for the stars!

This Step 3 Biography Reader introduces children to a young Neil deGrasse Tyson who was starstruck when he first visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He couldn't believe the crowded, glittering night sky at the planetarium was real--until a visit to the country years later revealed the impossible.

That discovery was like rocket fuel for Neil's passion about space--taking him from the…

A Long Way Gone

By Ishmael Beah,

Book cover of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Shugri Said Salh Author Of The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert

From the list on bringing other cultures to life.

Who am I?

I am at heart a storyteller, with a special interest in archiving and weaving the tales of my people to give you insight into a culture that is quite different from yours. Like an archaeologist digging a forgotten world, I want to bring these stories to life in the form of words. After a long day of animal herding and chores, my family and I would sit by the fire in a vast, open desert covered in blackness, and share century-old stories. My big ears consumed these stories like a thirsty desert after a long drought, so I could one day share this library of wisdom with others.

Shugri's book list on bringing other cultures to life

Discover why each book is one of Shugri's favorite books.

Why did Shugri love this book?

This memoir captures the journey of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone, and shows how once-innocent children with ordinary lives became killing machines in the hands of a ruthless rebel leader. Beah doesn't shy away from the gruesomeness of civil war, but there is beauty in how he weaves this memoir that reads like a novel. Though I am not usually a fan of books with a lot of violence, I was drawn to this one and could not put it down. I believe history is best learned from those who have first-hand experience. This is a one-of-a-kind book and to Beah’s credit, well-written as well. 

By Ishmael Beah,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Long Way Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this…

Another Day of Life

By Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (translator)

Book cover of Another Day of Life

Anjan Sundaram Author Of Breakup: A Marriage in Wartime

From the list on foreign correspondent memoirs of Africa.

Who am I?

I studied reporters' memoirs of Africa for my PhD in journalism at the University of East Anglia, under Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. I was fascinated by how foreign correspondents are aided by local reporters, who unfortunately often don’t receive much credit or commensurate pay for their contributions to international news. This inequality is changing, but not quickly enough, and it affects the kinds of news that we all receive, and how western lives, for example, are often respected more than others. 

Anjan's book list on foreign correspondent memoirs of Africa

Discover why each book is one of Anjan's favorite books.

Why did Anjan love this book?

I promised my publisher, who edited Kapuscinski, a book as elemental, pure, and wild as Kapuscinski's seminal account of the Angolan independence struggle in 1975.

Though I’m not sure I succeeded, Breakup is that book.

I was inspired by this classic of reportage for its simple and profound observations of the city, and countryside, trying to make sense of the chaos and what Angolans, in Portuguese, called confusão.

By Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (translator)

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Another Day of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1975, Angola was tumbling into pandemonium; everyone who could was packing crates, desperate to abandon the beleaguered colony. With his trademark bravura, Ryszard Kapuscinski went the other way, begging his was from Lisbon and comfort to Luanda—once famed as Africa's Rio de Janeiro—and chaos.Angola, a slave colony later given over to mining and plantations, was a promised land for generations of poor Portuguese. It had belonged to Portugal since before there were English-speakers in North America. After the collapse of the fascist dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, Angola was brusquely cut loose, spurring the catastrophe of a still-ongoing civil…

Kaffir Boy

By Mark Mathabane,

Book cover of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Tim Crothers Author Of The Queen of Katwe: One Girl's Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

From the list on young African heroes.

Who am I?

For most of my life I have been fascinated by Africa, but I could never figure out a good reason to go there. Then one day in 2010 while delivering a book talk in North Carolina, a gentleman approached me afterward saying that he’d read a brief item in a missionary newsletter that morning and he thought it might make “a good story” for me. Six months later, I was on a flight to Uganda and that “good story” was born as a magazine piece before evolving into a book and finally in 2016 into a Disney movie. I have since traveled to Africa many times and it is a magical place, my home away from home.  

Tim's book list on young African heroes

Discover why each book is one of Tim's favorite books.

Why did Tim love this book?

Phiona once told me that she grew up in Katwe believing that everyone in the world lived in the same desperate circumstances that she did and that if you’re born in Katwe, you are expected to die there. Mathabane was similarly anchored to his poverty-ravaged township of Alexandra outside of Johannesburg. “Kaffir” is an ugly ethnic slur common during Apartheid-era South Africa, a term that the author battled to overcome every day while surviving an environment plagued by gang violence. Mathabane’s salvation was his education (and, similar to Phiona, success in an unlikely sport), which eventually led him to attend college in the U.S., just like Beah, Kamkwamba, and Mutesi.

By Mark Mathabane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kaffir Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story of life in Apartheid South Africa.

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is…

Me... Jane

By Patrick McDonnell,

Book cover of Me... Jane

Brenda Z. Guiberson Author Of Into the Sea

From the list on that spark a lifetime of investigation.

Who am I?

I'm an award-winning, best-selling children’s author who writes about unexpected “wow” moments that stick with me. I look for books and articIes that take me on a deep journey into unknown environments. I aim for nonfiction that reads like a story with an emotional connection to new creatures with fascinating lifestyles. As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research. The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for those struggling to survive on our changing plant.  

Brenda's book list on that spark a lifetime of investigation

Discover why each book is one of Brenda's favorite books.

Why did Brenda love this book?

This book is about Jane Goodall, famous chimp researcher and United Nations Messenger of Peace. As a child, she shared her backyard “magical world of nature” with her stuffed chimp named Jubilee. The book Tarzan of the Apes expanded her passion into dreams of going to Africa to study animals. “Wow!” She did it, and her stick-to-it observations led to the discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools. As she protects wildlife she also helps people in wild places to get better food, water, and education. Her concerns for all creatures have inspired children around the world to take some action toward a better planet.  

By Patrick McDonnell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Me... Jane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his characteristic heartwarming and minimalistic style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of 'a life living with and helping all animals,' until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

One of the world's most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to…

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Book cover of Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Carol Fisher Saller Author Of The Bridge Dancers

From the list on nature providing strength and healing.

Who am I?

I’m not an expert in gardening, forestry, or herbal medicine. But like everyone else, I have a growing awareness that our planet Earth is entirely dependent on thriving forests and insects and even weeds. We owe it to our children and future generations to learn about and protect our precious resources. Although I live in the big city of Chicago and have a tiny backyard, last year I turned my little grass lawn into prairie! I have creeping charlie, dandelions, creeping phlox, sedge grass, wild violets, white clover, and who knows what else. (Luckily, my neighbors are on board.) I’ve already seen honeybees and hummingbirds. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

Carol's book list on nature providing strength and healing

Discover why each book is one of Carol's favorite books.

Why did Carol love this book?

Many of us tend to view gardens only from the surface up.

This book dives underground to show how many living things in the dirt are working hard to help us garden. Worms and insects that we might find “gross” are actually essential for airing the soil and warding off invaders.

Plenty of things grow just fine without human help because they have all the helpers they need under the earth. This book shows how nature goes about its business, plants and insects and animals all working together to green the earth.

Bonus: Neal’s illustrations are anatomical wonders, showing worms and bugs with legs and feelers in a friendly light. Squeamish children (and their parents) might make a few buggy friends as they read.

By Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A companion to the new Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Snow, this sweet book explores the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year.

Up in the garden, the world is full of green-leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt there is a busy world of earthworms digging, snakes hunting, skunks burrowing and all the other animals that make a garden their home. In this exuberant and lyrical book, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves... and down…

Digging for Words

By Angela Burke Kunkel, Paola Escobar,

Book cover of Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Laura Resau Author Of Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest

From the list on children’s pictures set in South America.

Who am I?

I feel passionate about spreading the word about all the fantastic children’s literature set in South America. As an author and a multilingual mom whose son enjoys learning about his Latin American heritage, I’ve always brought home stacks of picture books—in Spanish and English—that celebrate Latin American cultures and settings. I’ve loved traveling to the Andes mountains and the Amazon rain forest as part of my children’s book collaborations with Indigenous women in those regions. Most of all, I love transporting young readers to these inspiring places through story.

Laura's book list on children’s pictures set in South America

Discover why each book is one of Laura's favorite books.

Why did Laura love this book?

I love that this book is based on the true story of a former garbage collector who became famous for building his own library… starting with a discarded copy of Anna Karenina that he’d found on his route.

The story tells of “two Josés” who lived in Bogotá, Colombia—a young one and an old one. We follow them throughout the week, until their favorite day—library day, when the older José welcomes the younger one and other children into his hand-collected library.

As someone who loves thrifted, upcycled, and re-used treasures, I felt delighted by this heart-warming and inspiring story for book-lovers of all ages.

By Angela Burke Kunkel, Paola Escobar,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Digging for Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book based on the life of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia who started a library with a single discarded book found on his route.

In the city of Bogata, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Joses. One is a boy who dreams of Saturdays-- that's the day he gets to visit Paradise, the library. The second Jose is a garbage collector. From dusk until dawn, he scans the sidewalks as he drives, squinting in the dim light, searching household trash for hidden treasure . . . books!…

One Plastic Bag

By Miranda Paul, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator),

Book cover of One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Patricia Newman Author Of A River's Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn

From the list on conservation that give readers hope.

Who am I?

I write nonfiction books for children and teens that focus on current environmental stories. But environmental headlines are usually gloomy and filled with foreboding, so, I prefer to focus on stories that involve individuals identifying an environmental problem and working to develop a solution – hence this list of happy conservation stories. The stories in this list – and many others are the antidote to the headlines. They are the hope. They show human ingenuity at its most creative, most flexible, and most caring. Happy conservation stories empower kids, teens, and adults to care about the role they play in nature and unite them in action. 

Patricia's book list on conservation that give readers hope

Discover why each book is one of Patricia's favorite books.

Why did Patricia love this book?

I love stories of positive change. They give me hope that humans can see themselves as part of nature rather than apart from it.

One Plastic Bag is special because it focuses on how one person addressed the problem of plastic pollution and instituted change with small steps that created a big impact. If we are to coexist with nature, we must realize each of us have something to contribute.

By Miranda Paul, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Plastic Bag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiring true story of how one African woman began a movement to recycle the plastic bags that were polluting her community.

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock…

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Eric-Shabazz Larkin (illustrator),

Book cover of Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Katherine Pryor Author Of Zora's Zucchini

From the list on to help kids like vegetables and one fruit.

Who am I?

Katherine Pryor is the award-winning author of several picture books about food and gardens. In addition to writing, she has worked to create better food choices at institutions, corporations, and food banks. She gardens with her young twins at their home on an island in northwest Washington. 

Katherine's book list on to help kids like vegetables and one fruit

Discover why each book is one of Katherine's favorite books.

Why did Katherine love this book?

When former basketball star Will Allen notices a problem in his community—too many abandoned lots and not enough fresh food—he sees opportunity. This biography tells the story of Will Allen’s inspirational journey to create urban farms that heal both the land and the people harvesting and eating the bounty. Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is the perfect book to talk to kids about how there is often more than one way to solve a problem and get them excited about growing their own fresh food. Plus, any picture book that includes worms is a picture book I want to read with my kids—and worms play a starring role in Will Allen’s vision.

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Eric-Shabazz Larkin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Will Allen is no ordinary farmer. A former basketball star, he's as tall as his truck, and he can hold a cabbage--or a basketball--in one hand. But what is most special about Farmer Will is that he can see what others can't see. When he looked at an abandoned city lot in Milwaukee he saw a huge table, big enough to feed the whole world.

No space, no problem. Poor soil, there's a solution. Need help, found it. Farmer Will is a genius in solving problems. In 2008, the MacArthur Foundation named him one for his innovative urban farming methods,…

The Tree Lady

By H. Joseph Hopkins, Jill McElmurry (illustrator),

Book cover of The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

Irene Latham Author Of The Cat Man of Aleppo

From the list on The best children's picture books about ordinary people who change the world.

Who am I?

So often when things are going wrong in the world—war, natural disasters, pollution, poverty, disease—I feel really overwhelmed, and sometimes hopeless. That's when I seek out stories like these, about ordinary people (like me!) doing extraordinary, heroic things. It inspires me simply knowing these people exist, and it empowers me to do something—just one small act can snowball and generate terrific change. I, too, can help create goodness in the world by paying attention, giving my time and other resources, and joining with others. For every heartbreaking news story, there's a beautiful one waiting to happen. Every one of us has the potential to be a hero.

Irene's book list on The best children's picture books about ordinary people who change the world

Discover why each book is one of Irene's favorite books.

Why did Irene love this book?

The city of San Diego, California, is lush and leafy now in large part due to the efforts of tree-loving Kate Sessions, who in the early 1900s missed the redwood forests of her childhood when she relocated to dry, dusty San Diego. A scientist and naturalist, she procured seeds from experts far and wide to find species that might thrive in San Diego—and she started planting. She used the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park as a reason to plant thousands more trees that residents, wildlife, and visitors enjoy to this day. No one told Kate to plant all those trees; she did it because she wanted to make the world a brighter, more beautiful place.

By H. Joseph Hopkins, Jill McElmurry (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tree Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens.

Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in villages, Africa, and drought?

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