I've already written a little about The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, but I've just finally, finally finished the reading. I did not finish a single book, last week (actually, for nearly 2 weeks) so even if I hadn't had limited computer access I wouldn't have had much to say on the blog.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Windis the memoir of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian who was forced to drop out of secondary school after a crippling drought that killed many of his countrymen and left his family struggling for several years. Because they were barely making enough money to survive, they didn't have any excess to pay for school fees and a uniform. Kamkwamba was a drop-out for five years. He was already one of those curious little boys who take radios apart to figure out what makes them work, as a youngster.
During the drought, as he starved and watched others around him starve and die, young William thought that if only he could make a windmill like he'd seen in the science books in the library, he could power his family's home and create a pumping system to water his father's crops, so that a complete loss of crops would never happen, again. William may have been unable to attend school, but he did his best to keep up with the work on his own and read and reread books on science and physics. Eventually, he began drawing up plans for the windmill he'd dreamed about building and started collecting parts.
Building the windmill was an arduous task. He had to melt plastic and hammer it into shape, salvage yards and yards of wire and metal bits and have pieces welded together, find wood for the frame (no easy task in a country that has been heavily deforested) and locate various working parts I don't quite understand -- a dynamo, a battery. I can't say I fully followed the mechanics of this rather basic device.
Kamkwamba was teased and called "mad" but he ignored people or explained his plan and forged on. Eventually, he managed to power three rooms in his family's house and news spread about the boy who had built a windmill ("electric wind" is what he called it -- the closest words in his language). The press wrote about young William's invention, someone blogged about it, and he ended up attending a conference for scientists and inventors. With help from investors, he was able to attend a better school and build even more to help his family and villagers, including a fresh-water pump that is shared by women in the village, lights and new roofs.
What I loved about the story:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Windis truly amazing story of determination, creativity and a big heart. William Kamkwamba is not an egotist. He was driven entirely by the experience of starving and watching those around him starve, resort to stealing, or die if they couldn't acquire food. He wanted to make the lives of the people around him better and prevent starvation. I was impressed by his attitude and his heart. He could have simply gone off to enjoy the opportunities given to him in education, but instead he spent his time off making improvements in his village, just as he had planned.
When he attended the inventors' conference, he still didn't speak much English so upon being asked how he realized his dream to build a windmill, he said, "I get information about windmill . . . And I try, and I made it." Everywhere he went, people shouted, "I try, and I made it!" after his speech. Yes, I do believe that's worthy of a refrigerator magnet. It brought tears to my eyes, if you must know.
What I disliked about the book:
The only thing that frustrated me about The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is that there was never any mention of his age. How old was he during the drought and starvation? What was his age when he started gathering pieces and parts to make his windmill? That was something I wanted to know. Obviously, he was young, but how young? I have not read the supplementary material at the back of the book, so I'm hoping there will be some mention of his age.
Highly recommended. A wonderful tale about a fellow with a huge heart and a massively energetic, creative mind. I would recommend this book to anyone, but it would also make an excellent addition to a school curriculum because it is both inspiring and instructive.
More bookfoolery to come, tomorrow. I have much to share, but no time to post it right this moment.
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