This story is a factual account of a young boy's search for a way to help his village. His interest in windmills to generate electricity led him to his community llibrary where he researched the idea. I liked the way the story leads the reader from problem, to idea, to research, to solution, and finally extension. In education, teachers want young students to be able to do all of these steps: recognize, define, apply, evaluate, design, extend. All the lessons are incorporated in one story! The fact that this inventor was so young also helps students to realize that you don't have to be famous, rich, highly educated, or an adult to do something of great importance. The cultural part of the story suggests to students that not everyone has the advantages that we, as Americans, are able to enjoy, such as having water on demand. The book's mixture of illustration and authenic photos make the story more realistic, so students can realize that this event actually occurred and that the boy in the story is real. This makes it easier to identify with the boy...his life, his interests, his actions, his dreams. I bought this book for my eight-year-old grandson, but it could be read to a younger audience, and I would greatly recommend it to all age groups.
I read the adult version of William Kamkwamba's story when it was new, and I was floored. After reading his description of famine, I appreciated my food a lot more (and I don't think I'd been terribly unaware or careless about it before that). So, with my eight-year-old son being very particular about eating only the foods he was in the mood for, I wanted a way to make William's story accessible to him. I'm not sure yet if the one-meal-a-day thing really sank in, if it had the impact I'd like. But the story was worded very well, being honest without being scary--and William's interest in machines led my son to be drawn in right away, in spite of himself. He really enjoyed the story, and I think the illustrations are very accessible in the way they combine creative imagery and realism. Very well done, with exactly the right balance of simplicity and complexity. This book is worthy of the story it tells.
This story will entertained my 5 year old, budding engineer - whom I bought it for. it also challenged my 7 year old advanced reader and inspired me, which I didn't expect at all! in addition, I love the stylistic artwork, the poetic word choice, and the inclusion of native phrases to remind us that people everywhere do not act, talk, and sound like Americans. to top it off, they have included a much more complete narrative at the end. what amazing courage to build something so grand and ridiculous with all the adults calling him crazy! I will have to look him up on TED Talks!
Themes/Discussion Topics: Self-empowerment, Ingenuity, Africa, English-Language Learning, Hunger, Famine, Education, Role of Libraries, Recycling
Inventor William Kamkwamba and journalist Bryan Mealer collaborate with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon to masterfully share with the young reader the story of William's life in drought-ravaged Malawi and his ingenuity that inspired him to build a windmill that would illuminate his life and the lives of those around him. William was forced to drop out of school after a severe drought and famine struck Malawi. Instead of abandoning his education entirely, William started going to the local library in an effort to continue his education. He used the library books to teach himself how to build a windmill and dictionaries to learn English one word at a time.
In order to build his windmill, William collected spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan, plastic pipes and other useful items that others had discarded as trash. Although the people in his village thought that he was crazy, he persisted and ultimately succeeded in building a windmill that provided enough electricity to power several light bulbs and two radios as well as provide water for his family.
Kamkwamba and Mealer tell the story in a compelling manner that captures and maintains the young readers attention throughout the book. Issues such as poverty, famine and starvation are contrasted with concepts such as imagination, self-empowerment and education in way that a child can understand and appreciate without feeling overwhelmed. Zunon's intensely beautiful illustrations comprised of oil-painted backgrounds with carefully cut pieces of fabric, paper and old photographs create vibrant and textured collages that compliment the text and subtly mirror William's story by assembling old pieces of various materials to create a new whole that at times seem to have a story of their own to tell.
Although the story told in the book culminates with the construction of the windmill, William's story does not end with that amazing accomplishment. An update on the final pages about William's life after building the windmill is provided so that the young reader can be inspired by how William's hard work and determination paid off and continues to do so for William.
I enjoyed reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with my children and more importantly they benefitted from hearing William's story. The book provided us with an opportunity to discuss important issues like hunger, access to education and the transformative power of science and the imagination. As a parent, I remain appreciative of this heart-warming and thought-provoking book that inspired my children to ask "[c]ould we build a windmill?"
I saw this book and immediately thought of my son who is always thinking about how things work. It was a big hit for all 3 of my boys, and they learned about wells, irrigation, famine and perseverance, and how people might not share your vision when you have a new idea. A very inspiring true story for any aged reader.