Friday, May 10, 2019

A Multi-Media Experience

Picture Book: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Authors: William Kamkwamba
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Summary: This is a true story of 14 year old William, whose village in Malawi suffers a crippling drought. It begins with an explanation that William's village is a farming community with no electricity for lights or irrigation. 
But William loves the dark because he can dream of building things from scraps he collects. He does build many things.  
William works in the fields and attends school when his family can afford the fees. 
As the burning sun and lack of ran burns fields to dust,  
William's family has no fees for school.
One meal a day is all they can afford. Others in their village have even less.   
William is a determined learner so he goes to the village library and reads science books, but they are in English. Thanks to an English dictionary, William feeds his desire for learning. 
When he sees a book about how a windmill can produce electricity, creating light and pumping water, 
William imagines the good such a machine can bring his family and village. 
He is determined to build the "electric wheel" with the scraps he finds. Others think he's crazy, 
but his friends soon want to help. 
The windmill is built, 
and electricity is generated, but "Light could not fill empty bellies" so a water pump is built next. 
Later, other windmills are built, once the community sees the "magic" of William's inventions and their power to feed their community and their entire country. 
Hanna’s Comments: Picture books are great resources for all ages, but when you can supplement them with other media experience such as video, the learning will be even more meaningful. I was thrilled to learn that there is a new Netflix film based on this story. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor from the movie 12 Years a Slave. I watched and was very pleased by how closely it corresponds to this book. It was beautifully done, but some death scenes and violence are present so be sure to preview with your audience in mind. Other versions of this story are available as well, one a chapter book for children, another is appropriate for teens and adults, and you'll find a book about William in a series for elementary-aged students called Remarkable Lives Revealed. This last book would likely have many photographs. For both the film and the picture book, you'll need to address the meaning behind the mystical costumed figures. These are ghost dancers, an aspect of William's culture that gives him inspiration and comfort. The power of this story is multi-faceted. Themes such as vocation (William has a scientific mind he seems called to use) and science vs magic vs faith are rich subjects for conversation with teens and young adults in your churches. You can also focus on the wind as a metaphor for God’s power, God’s inspiration, or The Holy Spirit which is inside William giving him agency to change his family’s (and community’s) quality of life. The movie ends with this line: God is as the wind which touches everything. I recently heard a news story about solar panels decreasing in cost and being used all over Africa. More modern versions of evolving tech or updates on William might be included in your program. Anytime you can challenge your audience, no matter their age, to connect their faith with current events, especially global issues, then you’ve added great meaning and potential for spiritual growth.
Original Publisher & Date: Scholastic, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present but the other books are available in other formats.
Scripture Connections: Scriptures about wind such as the story of Pentecost in Acts 2, scriptures of prophets leading their communities such as those of Elijah, and Bible stories about young leaders such as in the story of David & Goliath
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of teens and explore the themes above. Beforehand, invite the teens to watch the Netflix movie or watch it together. 

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