The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Bryan Mealer, William Kamkwamba. William Morrow & Company, $25.99 (273pp) ISBN 978-0-06-173032-0
American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops (""three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen""), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors ""disguised... as green grass"" and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is ""replaced by the business of survival"" after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using ""electric wind""(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of ""Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage."" This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy.
Reviewed on: 09/29/2009