In a land where life depends on the predictable coming and going of the rainy season, one change in the weather pattern can result in catastrophe that spans years. One year when William Kamkwamba was just a boy, the rains didn't come. Crops died in the fields and the lack of food and money led to nationwide starvation in Malawi. William, an avid student who was highly interested in science, was forced to drop out of school because his family could no longer pay his school fees. He hoped to return once conditions improved so he studied on his own at the tiny library in town. There he found an introductory science book with a windmill on the cover. He decided that if windmills existed other places in the world, they could exist in Malawi as well. Imagining all the things he could do if he had a windmill to supply electricity to his home, William set about building his own windmill from scraps. In spite of ridicule from his neighbors, he continued in his quest and eventually succeeded. After a while, reporters came to see his windmill and through them the world was reminded of what can be done if you simply have the will to create.
*** Why I Read It ***
I saw a post at TLC Book Tours and was intrigued by the book's description so I signed up to participate in the tour.
*** My Thoughts ***
Although this book wasn't exactly what I expected, I still enjoyed it very much. The first half of the book is devoted to William's life (and the life of his village) before the drought. He goes into great detail about the way day-to-day life progressed and explains the strong belief in magic that influenced everyone's perspective. The most powerful section in this half of the book is his description of the drought and the famine that resulted. This part of the story seemed to go on and on and on, and it helped me to see and feel how the drought continued to affect the Malawians lives even after the rain came back.
About halfway through the book William begins to build his windmill. I have to admit that I am an extremely non-technical person so much of this part went over my head. And I also have to say that I am IN AWE of William's ability to build a windmill, with mostly trash from the scrapyard, using only the basic diagram in a textbook written in English, a language he barely understood. I can't even understand simple directions from IKEA showing how to put together a shelf.
I love the fact that William wanted to use his knowledge to improve his community. After the success of his windmill he was asked to start a science club at a local school, despite the fact that he was a teenager and he'd never graduated himself. And I was thrilled to see him end up in a school for future leaders in South Africa.
It may seem that I've given away a lot of the story but really I haven't. There's still a ton to discover if you decide to read the book.
To get a better idea about William and his accomplishments, check out the video below. [If you're not already a fan of TedTalks videos, definitely make time to view some of the others - they are quick and fascinating and highly educational and inspiring.] In it he references a video he made two years earlier in which he wasn't very eloquent (actually, it was painful to watch that first video); if you're interested in checking it out you can do so here.
*** Your Thoughts ***
This book is making the rounds via TLC Book Tours this month so I know many of you have heard about it already. What do you think - is it something you'd be interested in reading?
If you'd like to see what other people think of the book check out some of the other tour stops (they are all linked on this page).