Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

boy who harnessed the wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

This picture book version of the nonfiction book manages to translate the story of William Kamkwamba with clarity and inspiration.  When a drought hit his village in Malawi in 2001 and 2002, 14-year-old William and his family were in real danger of starving.  William had always through about machines and even after he was forced to leave school due to the drought, he kept reading books about them.  He thought about what could be done with a windmill in his village, bringing light and water.  So he hunted through the junk yard and found pieces to use.  Built entirely out of scraps, his first windmill and its electric wind brought electricity to the valley.   The afterword gives more details about William’s story and how it took him longer years to bring his dream of pumping water to fruition. This inspirational story speaks to the inventor, the doer, and the dreamer in all of us.

The writing here is lovely.  The imagery is impressive, such as comparing the windmill to a “clumsy giraffe” and giving William’s sorrow at having to leave school a physical sense: “alone with the monster in his belly and the lump in his throat.”  The book carefully captures what life in Malawi was like and what little could be done to make a difference before transforming into a book where dreams create change.  

Zunon’s illustrations are exquisite.  They are a captivating mix of painting and collage.  Filled with texture, the textiles of the clothing come to life and the objects have weight and feel.  The most impressive are the faces of the people, filled with light.  The faces become the place your eyes go first, making the message of the book just that much stronger in a subtle but powerful way.

A luminous picture book version of a compelling real-life story, this book should inspire others to not only dream but to make those dreams happen.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea

gideon gideon and otto

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea

Gideon & Otto by Olivier Dunrea

Gideon is the newest fowl in Dunrea’s farmland.  He is a gosling who loves to play, hates to nap, and has a favorite toy, an octopus named Otto.  In the book bearing just his name, Gideon is hard at play and refusing to listen to his mother call him for his nap.  He just keeps racing on to the next thing to play with.  Readers who are paying close attention will notice that he starts slowing down towards the end of the book, just before he falls asleep all on his own.  In Gideon & Otto, Gideon is once again hard at play on land and in the water.  Otto participates happily, listening when books are read aloud, hiding in the leaves, and even bobbing in the water.  When Gideon sets Otto aside to play more, he instructs Otto to stay there.  But in the midst of playing, Otto gets knocked down and then disappears.  Gideon is about to give up when Otto appears again.  Filled with appeal, these books are jolly additions to Dunrea’s menagerie.

Toddlers and their parents will immediately recognize moments out of their own days here.  From being too busy to nap to losing a beloved toy, these moments are what create the tapestry of young lives.  Told with a wonderful humor, zinging with speed and action, these books beg to be shared.  In fact, when I was curled up to read them to myself, my 10-year-old appeared and insisted that he be read them aloud.  There is such charm to just the covers and even more inside the pages.  These are small books that are very rich.

Perfect for busy toddlers who need some time to slow down a bit.  Appropriate for ages 2-4, or for 10-year-olds who need a cuddle too.

Reviewed from library copies.

IBBY 2012 Short List

The International Board on Books for Young People has announced the short list for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award.  The award is given biennially “to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made lasting contributions to children’s literature.”  The winners will be announced on March 19th at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

The Author Finalists are:


Maria Teresa Andruetto (Argentina)


Paul Fleischman (US)


Bart Moeyaert (Belgium)


Jean-Claude Mourlevat (France)


Bianca Pitzorno (Italy)


The Illustrator Finalists are:


Mohammad Ali Beniasadi (Iran)


John Burningham (UK)


Roger Mello (Brazil)


Peter Sis (Czech Republic)


Javier Zabala (Spain)