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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope    by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer order for
Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
by William Kamkwamba
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the true story of a young teenager in Malawi, Africa, who figured out on his own, from reading library books, how to build a windmill to produce electricity.

William Kamkwamba had survived a terrible drought and famine in which many people starved to death. His father was a farmer, who had been providing for his family well enough to pay school tuition for his children before the drought occurred. William, his only son in a family with many daughters, was intelligent and loved school, but too often didn't study as much as he should have. As the drought grew worse and money grew tight, he had to drop out of school since there just wasn’t any money left for anything but food. Many other children also dropped out of school, since the drought affected everyone in their farming community. Later, when William tried to return to school, his father couldn't afford to pay the tuition that was still owed for the year before, as well as the new school year.

William started going to the local library and reading everything he could check out and one day he found a book about building a windmill. From then on, he renewed it so many times that it became tattered, and thus began his obsession with building his own windmill. He was fourteen at the time, and the other students made fun of him for searching through the scrap heaps in the dump which was unfortunately next to the school, but he just smiled and gathered his materials, storing them in his room at home.

This story is amazing in so many ways. The first part is a vivid description of what it was like to live through the drought and ensuing famine. William's family suffers along with others, but there are many more who actually starve to death, and William tells of what it was like to see and experience this terrible time. Later, as the country begins to come back to life when the rains come again, William starts to build his windmill with all his accumulated junk, much to the amusement and taunts of others in the town.

I really loved reading William's story, which becomes more and more interesting as it nears the end. What makes it especially wonderful is that it's a true story, and William is able to do so much good with his invention, without seeming to have a bit of resentment over the way he was treated while he was trying to build his windmill.

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