by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, pitures by Elizabeth Zunon
I selected this book as one of our picture books to read as we study inventions in our physics this year. It's the inspiring story of a young man who built a windmill from scrapped parts and a donated generator to provide electricity to his home in Malawi after he had to drop out of school. It's wonderful in so many ways: perseverance, optimism, dedication, independent thinking and learning. William's curiosity shines throughout the book. His friends and family support him even with others in his village call him crazy. I love how we see his sorrow at dropping out of school lifted when he remembers the library; there's nothing wrong with being disappointed, but see what great things we can do when we take a deep breath and set ourselves a task.
There's an informative section at the end of the picture book that includes more detailed biographical information. From what I've read online, young William continues to be modest and hard-working even as international fame (following the release of his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope in 2009). He is now studying at a college here in the United States and plans to return to Malawi with an engineering degree. I haven't read the non-picture-book version of his story, but it is on my list.
The illustrations are created by someone who actually grew up in Africa and are a combination of paintings and cut paper. I especially love the one that shows William's windmill working for the first time, with the wind depicted as brilliant blue and green paper swirling around in the sky. The text on that page flows around the currents. It's perfect.
My children (8, 6, and 4) loved listening to this story. They even sat quietly at the end to hear more details and see an actual picture of William with his windmill.