The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope Summary

William Kamkwamba

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Summary

William Kamkwamba lives in a small village in Malawi. His parents are subsistence farmers, and William is forced to leave school because they cannot afford the school fees. He continues his education in the local library.

  • Kamkwamba becomes fascinated with the wind and harnessing its power. He reads an old engineering book called Using Energy, which gives him the idea to build a windmill.
  • Kamkwamba turns out to be a skilled engineer. He builds his windmill out of salvaged parts, ignoring the people who call him a "madman." When it's finished, the windmill is capable of charging small items like light bulbs and cell phones.
  • Kamkwamba becomes famous when news of his windmill reaches the mainstream media. He's able to travel the world and secure scholarships to continue his education.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the story of William Kamkwamba and his windmill in Malawi. His book was published in 2009 by William Morrow and recounts the construction of the windmill and how it came to represent his freedom. He co-wrote the story with Bryan Mealer, an Associated Press reporter in Africa.

His story is divided into three parts. In the first part, Kamkwamba describes his life growing up in his village, which is made up of subsistence farmers. This way of life is thousands of years old. The village operates with a strong reliance on superstition, the healing of shamans, and the fears of witchcraft. For the past five months, David’s family is starving and struggling to survive on their small farm. A corn harvest brings new life into the area. However, Kamkwamba shares that his family cannot pay for his school fees and he must stop attending.

In the second part, Kamkwamba carries on with his education on his own by visiting a local library. Kamkwamba exhibits an unusual curiosity in the wind and dreams of harnessing its power in some way to benefit his family. He comes across an old science book called “Using Energy” in his grade school library. From the description in the text, Kamkwamba attempts to gather parts to build a contraption, or windmill. He uses an old bicycle wheel, discarded motor parts, and PVC pipe. He takes whatever he can use from the junkyard and also takes odd jobs to earn money to buy what he cannot make. He is a gifted and natural engineer and builds an operating windmill, despite being called “a madman” for his efforts. The mill operates a water pump, charges light bulbs and cell phones, and Kamkwamba’s vision is a reality.

In the third part of the book. Kamkwamba’s windmill is discovered by the world outside of his village. He becomes a hero when an engineer starts to blog about Kamwamba’s work. Sponsors from the United States allow him to travel internationally to find scholarships to continue his education.

Nearly all reviews of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind have been positive, with many critics deeming Kamkwamba’s story inspirational.