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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hopeby Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba
Synopses & Reviews
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala — crazy — but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.
Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.
Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity — electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.
Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo — his electric wind — spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.
Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.
"American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops ('three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen'), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors 'disguised... as green grass' and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is 'replaced by the business of survival' after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using 'electric wind'(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of 'Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage.' This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This immensely engaging tale relates how an enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity — and a future — to his family.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the immensely engaging and inspiring true account of an enterprising African teenager who constructed a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his entire community. William Kamkwamba shares the remarkable story of his youth in Malawi, Africa—a nation crippled by intense poverty, famine, and the AIDS plague—and how, with tenacity and imagination, he built a better life for himself, his family, and his village. The poignant and uplifting story of Kamkwambas inspiration and personal triumph, co-written with Bryan Mealer, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has already won ringing praise from former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore as well as Paolo Coelho, internationally bestselling author of The Alchemist.
About the Author
Bryan Mealer is the coauthor of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with William Kamkwamba, and author of All Things Must Fight to Live, which details his experience reporting the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003-07 for the Associated Press and Harper's. In 2008, he began working with William Kamkwamba, a 20-year-old inventor in Malawi, who, after dropping out of high school due to a crippling famine, began building windmills from tree branches, tractor and bicycle parts to bring electricity and irrigation to his home and village. Mealer was born in Odessa, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden. He’s now a student at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and recently completed a biography: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope with coauthor Bryan Mealer.
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