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Monday, August 3, 2015

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind quickly became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller after it was published in 2009. Now, the fascinating, true story of William Kamkwamba is accessible to all ages with the recent publication of a picture book and young readers edition.

I must confess that I do not read an inordinate amount of non-fiction. In fact, I probably would not have read the young readers edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind if I did not serve on an award committee for which it was nominated. It just goes to show how important it is step outside your box sometimes, because I was completely enthralled by the ingenuity, discipline, and perseverance of this self-taught Malawian boy.

William Kamkwamba grew up in the rural Malawian village of Wimbe with an insatiable curiosity about how things worked. Even when his parents were unable to afford school, William continued to learn and experiment on his own. While still only a teenager, William used scrap materials to build a functioning windmill that provided his family with light, heat, and running water.

William's windmill soon garnered international attention with numerous articles, interviews, and the opportunity to become a TED fellow. For those of you who do not know,  TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design and it is all about spreading ideas, experiences, and information around the world. I am a bit obsessed with TED videos, because you can learn SO MUCH and hear stories from people from every walk of life imaginable.

Here is William Kamkwamba's second TED talk which would be  great for kids to watch before or after they read the book.

Considering the current emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in education, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an excellent example of how kids can be innovative and use science to improve the world around them.

Of course, it is not just an educational book. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an exceptionally well-written story about a remarkable young man. Young readers will definitely get caught up in William's story and be able to draw parallels between their lives and his. As a child William loved to play with trucks (even though Malawian kids have to build their own from empty boxes and bottle caps); he played soccer with his friends; he had younger siblings who annoyed him; and a pet dog that he adored.

However, William faced adversities that are unfathomable for the majority of American children. Undeterred by famine, poverty, ridicule, and superstition; William never gives up on his dreams? I hope that young readers will understand that the dreaming is the easy part. It is the fortitude and will power required to turn  dreams into reality that is truly extraordinary.