Learn from the Past, Embrace the Present

Our intrepid (and history-loving!) intern, Eliza Leahy, is back with more thoughts to share. Take it away, Eliza!

I’ll admit it. I’ve been called an “old soul” once or twice in my life. Example one: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were great companions to me in my childhood. As I read them, I found myself clinging to any semblance of the past. I’d roam the woods by my house and imagine I was helping Laura gather kindling for the fireplace.

Example two: Ten years ago, Walkman CD players or MP3s were about as common an accessory for high school students as were backpacks. Yet when I boarded the bus each morning, I lugged along a clunky, old tape player (at the time, this was the high school equivalent of using a rolling suitcase to transport your textbooks). Yes, you heard it. A cassette player, not dissimilar from this one:cassette player

So when I happened upon Lerner’s Lightning Bolt Books series called Comparing Past and Present in our in-house library just a few weeks back, I knew I was in for a treat. Each of these books tackles one aspect of our society that has experienced significant changes over the past century or two. Historic photographs juxtaposed with modern images capture changes in the home, at the office, in how we we spend our free time, how we get from place to place, and more. Being the word nut I am, my favorite of the six was, of course, From Typewriters to Text Messages: How Communication has Changed:

from typewriters

While I will always have a place in my heart for power outages and woodstove fires, witnessing the progress that has been made across generations in so many different arenas is astounding. When I was a young reader, I don’t believe I ever came across a nonfiction book documenting societal changes like the ones featured in Lightning Bolt Books. Instead, I wandered around in the historic world of Laura Ingalls Wilder—which is just fine, I think. But this series, like so many Lightning Bolt Books titles, is really one of a kind. The books offer simplified, nonfiction accounts of important and timely issues facing our twenty-first century world. Not only do they inspire a fascination with our history, but they awaken appreciation for modern technology. Take, for example, From Washboards to Washing Machines: How Homes Have Changed:


I know I wouldn’t want to go back to doing laundry the old-fashioned way. Would you?