The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind…creating currents of electricity and hope

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; published by William Morrow, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; 270 pages.

Kamkwamba’s autobiography (written with Bryan Mealer) is more than the story of a boy who brought electricity to his rural African village.  His struggles against poverty, famine, and politics give insight into the bigger struggles in Malawi.  His vignettes of daily life, interwoven with tales of magic and history told by his father, illuminate the remarkable differences in life in Africa compared to our lives of relative ease in the West.  Overall, his perseverance to find solutions to problems big and small underline the importance of hope, education and problem-solving.

I had a hard time getting into the rhythm of this book.  I enjoyed learning about life on a continent I will probably never visit.  I cheered for William to overcome overwhelming odds.  I was especially moved that he cherished books and parlayed his book-learning into real-world solutions.  But I couldn’t get past the feeling that I was listening to a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing.  It was like William dictated a bunch of stories to Mealer and then Mealer organized the vignettes into a timeline.

For teens that like to read in short bursts, this book would be right up their alley since it’s easy to set down after a story or two.  I also think this is invaluable to teach life in another world, almost like another time.  Perhaps this is the reason the book won an Alex Award for 2010.

2P     2Q     Grade Level: 10-12+

Cover Art: The yellow background is eye-catching.  Adding the sketched windmill with a photo of Kamkwamba is intriguing.  Perhaps the combination of the art and the title will appeal to teens.  I personally loved the subtitle: “Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.”

From Reading List: Alex Award winner (adult books that appeal to young adults), Too Good to Be True Nonfiction


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