The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2015)

An Intermediate and Middle School selection. 

The Spanish edition of El niño quel domó el viento is imported from a foreign publisher and incurs a surcharge.

Prepare to be amazed. Prepare to be inspired. Prepare to have a new favorite book.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind can do all of those things.

To call it another inspiring must-read doesn’t do it justice. Yes, it has all of the components of a heartfelt hometown hero story.

An unlikely hero? Check.

An against-all-odds situation? Check.

Tragedy and hardship? Check.

A youth full of determination and dreams of helping others? Check.

This book has it all. But William Kamkwamba’s story transcends the typical survivalist story with his unabashed and simple retelling of how his desire to help his family – combined with a few books from the local library – truly changed the world.

William and Bryan Mealer tell the unprecedented story of William, a young boy growing up in the poor agricultural country of Malawi during the famine of 2004. Conditions are bleak. But William is a curious fellow. He has seen a picture of a windmill in an old science textbook. Convinced this can solve his family’s problems, he sets his mind to understanding the science behind energy production and proceeds to make his dream a reality. With only a few donated books, some scraps from the junkyard, and an abundance of curiosity, William launches a plan to build a machine and a miracle that would change the lives of those around him.

Despite ridicule from his neighbors, a lack of resources, an incomplete formal education, and miserable life conditions, William dreams of learning, and his dream propels him to literally harness the wind and save his family from starvation. Despite every imaginable setback, William never loses sight of his dreams. He finds the good and the possible in the midst of the worst of times. William turns out to be an inspiration to us all. Fueled by his insatiable curiosity and desire to learn, William is able to solve his family’s crisis, providing electricity and irrigation for their farm. William’s education yields freedom for his village.

Though William’s situation seems thousands of miles away, his storytelling pulls the reader right into his village – to share his family’s plight and recognize the threads of truth that connect all humans. His simple and straightforward language and style blend to create a multifaceted tale that transcends setting and economics. He manages to take an unfamiliar setting and make us feel at home. Although it relays some harsh truths, this account is ultimately grounded in hope. This young adult version is factual and informative while providing a compelling book for families to read and discuss together.

William’s lesson of, “I try, and I made it!” is one for all young people today. The future of the world literally rests in their capable, imaginative hands. William is living proof that extraordinary circumstances can drive extraordinary people to extraordinary things. This remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity will inspire anyone who dares to doubt the power of one individual’s ability to change lives.

Go forth young people. Be curious. Be determined. Be a reader. Be a learner. Be someone who literally changes the world. Be like William Kamkwamba. Try! And Make It!