Prather’s Pick: A remarkable true story
A few weeks ago my sister, Darlene Blackford of Rocky Ford, sent me this week’s book. She had read it some time ago and was touched by the author’s story. So am I. “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” was written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. The book was first published in September 2009. It was a New York Times bestseller and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.
This week’s book is the Young Readers Edition of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (2015), written by the same two authors. It was illustrated by Anna Hymas. The book my sister sent me is in softcover.
This is the true and remarkable story of William Kamkwamba, told in his words. He lived in Malawi, a nation in southeastern Africa with his parents, six sisters, some goats, guinea fowl, and a few chickens. Their village, Wimbe, was made up of about 10 houses built of mud bricks and painted white.
The family raised maize, a white corn, which usually overfilled their storeroom and provided food for the year. Raising the maize was hard work: getting the soil ready, planting seeds, and hoeing weeds.
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Though it did exist in Malawi, the family didn’t have electricity. For one thing, it was expensive, but if the family had applied for electricity and managed to get a pole and wires installed, the floods often came and as a result the power had to be shut off. William described the effects of deforestation.
So, there was no electricity for television or to run a pump to water the maize or a garden. The family depended on a battery-operated radio for entertainment. When William was 13, he and friend Geoffrey became interested in radios. They turned Geoffrey’s bedroom into a workshop. Eventually they repaired radios for people.
One thing led to another. William wanted to know how cars ran and was intrigued with dynamos, small objects that were attached to bicycle wheels to provide the energy for headlights. William wanted to become a scientist.
Then something happened to change everything. Heavy rains fell, flooding occurred, and then it was followed by a drought. That year the harvest left the family with a fraction of maize. A famine followed. The effect, described by William, is heart-wrenching. The family got down to one meal a day. William’s family couldn’t afford to send him to school.
Eventually the maize started to grow again. William found a small library at the primary school with books donated by the American government. One of the books, “Using Energy,” changed his life. That’s where William found out about windmills and how they could produce electricity. William wanted to use a windmill to produce electricity for his village.
This is only a fraction of the story. What followed is incredible. Besides that, William has a message about following one’s dreams.
I agree with Darlene. This book is a must-read. Published by Puffin Books (an imprint of this Penguin Random House LLC), this softcover book costs $8.99.
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