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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring true story and perfectly paced biography of a teen's journey to build a windmill to power his home in famine-stricken Malawi. William Kamkwamba's education could've ended when he had to drop out of school during a drought. Instead, his is a riveting story of how fierce determination, a thirst for knowledge, and a little luck can change a life and an entire village. That William came up with the idea of a power-generating windmill without seeing one before is a remarkable contrast to readers' world, where internet searches can bring up endless blueprints, and building it entirely from junkyard scraps offers a different perspective on innovation and opportunity. There's a lot of scientific information here that's relatively easy to understand, along with history, economics, a huge dose of inspiration, and a lot of moments that are great starting points for discussions about equity and obstacles.
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What's the story?
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND tells the true story of a young teen in Malawi who, in the midst of a devastating famine, is forced to drop out of school because his family can't afford food, let alone tuition. Determined to keep learning, William Kamkwamba borrows science books from the village library, scrounges through junkyards for parts, and works nonstop on his dream to build a windmill that will power his family's home. He wants a free, reliable way to light the rooms of his house after dark, cook, and draw water from the well so his family can grow more food, live without smoke from cooking fires, and protect themselves from future famine.
Is it any good?
Author William Kamkwamba weaves together the details of his childhood with the adventure of creating a life-changing invention in this inspiring page-turner set in famine-ravaged Malawi. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable story that teaches readers about the science behind windmills as a power source as well as the daily difficulties of life in his village, and does so in a way that inspires readers to keep working on their own goals. His perspective is one of grit and optimism, and the obstacles he faces just to eat, go to school, and make a better life for his family are a world away from most readers, but Kamkwamba makes them relatable. This young reader's edition will stretch the vocabulary of anyone not familiar with physics and engineering, but offers plenty of context and repetition so readers can follow along and learn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the supplies Gilbert bought made William's work possible at crucial points in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. When has someone done something small for you that had a huge impact? Have you ever done that for someone else? How can we find these opportunities to help?
What obstacles to education and progress exist in your own community? What can be done to address those obstacles?
What other books have you read about people who have changed the world in big or small ways?
- Authors: William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer
- Illustrator: Anna Hymas
- Genre: Autobiography
- Topics: STEM, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Puffin Books
- Publication date: January 5, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 9, 2020
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