Tom's Reviews > The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
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Aug 15, 2011

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Read in August, 2011

14 year old William Kamkwamba's family is one that hangs onto the bottom rung of human survival. As farmers in Malawi, there aren't any poorer to be found in the world. When a famine hits his country, thousands die and William is forced out of school when his family can no longer afford the tuition. In the midst of this, William gets the idea to create a windmill out of junkyard parts in order to produce electricity. This is a massive "mind-leap" in a village that exists largely outside the ring of modern technology (most live without electricity, running water, irrigation, etc.) Of course, he succeeds, even in the face of ridicule and out-right hostility from his neighbors. When William's story is picked up by the web technorati, he becomes a web celebrity (you can search for his presentation on

William is a kid who reinforces a belief that ingenuity and intelligence can persevere, even in the most hard-scrabble circumstances. Out of nothing, he found a way not only to improve his own life, but the lives of his family and everyone around him.

The book itself bogs down a bit in places. Let's face it, there only so much plot to be generated from building a windmill. So the story expands a bit to the rest of William's life... the educational system in Malawi, the influence of government corruption on their lives, the famine and it's impact - even how the local belief in witchcraft and sorcery influences people's lives.

Honestly, as an inspirational story, the book could be much shorter. But as a memoir, it seems written too early and not long enough. William, now only 19, has more to do and much more story to be told.

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