Carolyn’s CBR Review #30- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel may be junk to most people, but in the hands of William Kamkwamba, they are just the tools he needs to realize his dream. This is one of those books that reaffirms my chronically devastating laziness. Born into a relatively poor family in Malawi during a particularly turbulent time in Africa, William and his family suffered through the tragic famine that struck Africa in 2002 which made them unable to afford his school fees and William’s dream of becoming a scientist seems dashed. From a young age he was fascinated by science and destroyed his family’s radios by taking them apart to see how they worked. The reluctant dropout split his time between working at his father’s farm and the tiny village library. There, in the small room where three shelves filled with books in no logical order, William found a book about science and engineering and taught himself what he needed to know to create and harness energy.

After seeing a picture of a windmill in the book, William decided to build one himself to bring energy and electricity to his village. It was not an easy road; despite numerous setback and constant mockery by his neighbors he finally built a windmill made up from scavenged materials from a junk yard. Once the windmill was a success, people from all over came to view the windmill including several journalists who catapulted him into the spotlight culminating in his invitation to speak at the TED conference in 2007 garnering him international attention and the means to return to school.

I would recommend this book. Although it is a little slow at times and gets bogged down in scientific explanations, William is a compelling narrator who pokes fun at himself, his family and his village and who never loses hope. It also serves as a reminder of the potential of a human life. How many kids like William are in the world with brilliant minds but without the means to receive an education?

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