It's great. Made me homesick a little.
It's great. Made me homesick a little.
If you hadn't had a chance to try the Pearson Foundation's free book website We Give Books with the young people in your life, try it soon. Children all around America have read 7500 free books online, and each one read means Pearson Foundation gives 1 new book to Moving Windmills, my NGO for the library where my adventure began (up to 10,000). We will also share books with other libraries and schools in my district. I'm excited that soon children in my village will have picture books. Right now there are none. Watch the bookshelf on the right; it fills in as kids read...
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND (reviewed on December 1, 2011)
The true story of a Malawian teenager who leveraged need and library research into a windmill constructed from found materials.
Forced by drought and famine to drop out of school, William dreams of “building things and taking them apart.” Inspired by science books in an American-built library near his village, his dreams turn to creating “electric wind.” Despite the doubts of others he begins—assembling discarded bicycle parts and other junk into a rickety tower, triumphantly powering an electric light and going on to dream of windmill-driven wells to water the land. Kamkwamba tells this version (another, for adult readers, was published with the same title in 2009) of his tale of inspiration meeting perspiration in terse, stately third person: “He closed his eyes and saw a windmill outside his home, pulling electricity from the breeze and bringing light to the dark valley.” Zunon illustrates it handsomely, with contrasting cut-paper-collage details arranged on brown figures, and broad, sere landscapes painted in visibly textured oils.
A plainspoken but inspiring tale of homespun ingenuity. (afterword) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)
Yesterday, TED Fellow William Kamkwamba debuted an illustrated children’s version of his memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, co-written with Bryan Mealer and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Since its publication in 2009,The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has been printed in 17 editions. For this Young Readers edition, for ages 6 and up, Kamkwamba’s story is accompanied by Zunon’s uniquely subtle mix of oil and collage.
In conjunction with the launch of the book’s children’s edition, Kamkwamba’s NGO, Moving Windmills Project, is collaborating with the Pearson Foundation on an initiative to send up to 10,000 children’s books to Wimbe lending library, near Kamkwamba’s village in Malawi — the place where his story began. Each time the book is read online, the library receives one new book. So far there have been over 7,000 readings completed online. Learn more. Kamkwamba is now a sophomore at Dartmouth majoring in Environmental Sciences.
We caught up with illustrator and former Côte d’Ivoire denizen Elizabeth Zunon to ask her about this beautiful new edition.
I was touched by William’s problem-solving mentality during a crisis. He endured the drought and had to drop out of school, but still figured out a way to piece together a solution with determination and only the materials that he had.
How did you decide the style of the illustrations?
I love combining oil painted portraits and collage elements, so I thought that exploring this style would fit perfectly for this book. I am always collecting pieces of colored and textured paper and fabric, and taking photographs. I thought that literally “building” the illustrations with my own found items would reflect Williams searching and building process as well.
How do you think your style and William’s story work together to create a new narrative?
I think that they both demonstrate the process of collecting, altering and piecing together disparate parts. Trusting in oneself and in one’s idea, even before it has been completed or is actually successful, is the key to satisfaction. Having the artwork demonstrate the same notions that the story does only enforces the narrative.
What do you hope young readers will learn from this story?
I hope that they’ll learn that you can build your dreams with the pieces that are already around you — that every positive and negative experience you live through is a puzzle piece for the legacy you will leave to others. Hope, courage and endless possibilities live everywhere!
Here is a quick update on Bryan and me.
First of all, both of us are so grateful for and humbled by all the love and appreciation you have shown us during the whole book process.
These days, I'm a sophomore at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH, majoring in Environmental Sciences with a minor in Engineering. I love it here, except for the cold. I have two great roommates from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and Houston, TX. I have an amazing advisor, professor John Collier and a great tutor and friend in Christopher Schmidt, who also graduated from Dartmouth.
During school breaks, I speak in many places to audiences mostly composed of college or high school students. I have been so lucky to go to UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa. Norway is coming up. The craziest time was when I spoke at the University of Florida. I had to talk to 8000 University of Florida students in their football stadium, and they had my face on Jumbotron screens. I was so nervous before going on stage. It worked out fine though.
My non-profit Moving Windmills Project is currently rebuilding my primary school, building by building. We finished one last year, and one is built but just waiting for the rains to stop for final painting.
So that's two of at least seven school "blocks" we will need. We build these in conjunction with my friends at BuildOn.org, an amazing U.S./Int'l NGO. My friend and I add solar power and electricity to the buildings so they can be used until late at night, both for adult literacy, and for high school students to study under the bright lights. I also built my parents a business which has helped them lift themselves out of poverty. My plan for the future has not changed: To create a company that builds and markets low-cost power and water systems for Malawi's rural poor.
Meanwhile, Bryan is married to a lovely playwright and author, Ann-Marie Healy. They have one child, and another baby (and another adult book!) arrive any minute. Bryan lives in Saugerties, NY.
Thanks for buying our books and telling people about them and coming to visit in person. Feel free to email, knowing only that my school work may prevent a rapid reply.
As part of the book launch my NGO Moving Windmills Project and I are collaborating with the Pearson Foundation on a literacy program to send up to 10,000 children's books to the library in Malawi where my journey began, as well as to more remote rural primary schools.
Parents, teachers and children in the US read high quality books online at this site, and for every book completed, Wimbe community lending library, just a half-kilometer walk from my parents' home, gets one new high-quality book, up to 10,000. The campaign has been running for about two weeks, and already children have read 6,907 books. Despite being a stone's through from my 1500-pupil elementary school, the library currently has NO picture books (except a few copies of my book). Moving Windmills and I are excited to change that.
I am happy to celebrate the publication of my new children's book written with Bryan Mealer and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Reader's Edition is a version of our adult book for children 6 and up.
Elizabeth's artwork is so beautiful, combining oil paintings and cut paper. I hope that you might consider getting one for the young people in your life.