Exhibits To Go! Electrifying Minnesota: Suggested Reading and Resources


MN Energy Challenge has lots of ways you can conserve energy. Commit to certain actions and see how much carbon you can save. (appropriate for both general audience and school audience)

The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society has lots of information about using renewable sources of energy, including workshops, a tour of buildings around the state using renewable energy, and videos of guest speakers from board meetings.

The Environmental Protection Agency has an extensive website that teaches kids all about climate change and conserving energy through games, fun links, and activities.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s website for kids has information about many forms of energy and timelines explaining the history of human use of each type of energy.

Energy Star’s website is full of fun graphics that demonstrate how to save energy, where it comes from, and why we should conserve.

PBS KIDS GO! EekoWorld has video games requiring decisions that can help the earth, lots of fun videos about the environment, and contests.

The U.S. Department of Energy has lots of games, riddles, and ideas about how kids can save energy.

The National Academy of Engineering’s website, Greatest Achievements, has a timeline and detailed history of electrification in the U.S.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has a great overview of electrification in our neighboring state followed by a list of primary sources.

The Minnesota Historical Society has lots of activities, primary sources, and lessons on the topic of  the Rural Electrification Act.

Reading lists

Children’s Books:

Bang, Molly. My Light. Blue Sky Press, 2004.
This lovely picture book traces the path of energy as it originates with the sun and transforms in a number of ways, including into electricity. 

Berger, Melvin. Switch On, Switch Off. HarperCollins, 1990.
A solid covering of the basics of electricity and how electricity reaches our homes.

Bailey, Jacqui. Charged Up: The Story of Electricity. Picture Window Books, 2004.
What happens when a bolt of lightning disrupts electrical power to the city? An explanation of how electricity works and is transmitted.

Du Prau, Jeanne. The City of Ember (and sequels). Yearling, 2003.
A novel about an underground city where everyone has forgotten how the infrastructure works, including the electricity. The young protagonists must be the ones to help their society as the lights begin to go out.
O’Ryan, Ellie. Easy to Be Green: Simple Activities You Can Do to Save the Earth. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
This book explains global warming and a carbon footprint and gives you ideas about helping the Earth.

Seuling, Barbara. Flick A Switch: How Electricity Gets to Your Home. Holiday House, 2003.
Jojo and her dog take the reader on a quick tour of the history of electricity and then explain how it’s produced and how it gets to our homes.

Suen, Anastasia. Wired. Charlesbridge, 2007.
Through collage illustrations and detailed text, the route of electricity is traced from power plant to the outlet in a house.

Adult Books:

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. Basic Books, 1985.
Electricity was heavily marketed to women as labor-saving. Cowan charts the changes in domestic work through history and the effects on women’s experiences with housework.

Glendinning, Victoria. Electricity. Picador USA, 1997.
A novel about a young woman and her electrical engineer husband in the late Victorian period as technology and the world is rapidly changing.

Jonnes, Jill. Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World. Random House, 2003.
Jonnes highlights three important figures in the history of electrification but also tells the tale of the behind-the-scenes forces that shaped the electrical system we have today.

Kay, Terry. The Year the Lights Came On. University of Georgia Press, 1989.
A fictional look at coming of age in small town Georgia before and during rural electrification after WWII.

Kelsey, Kerck. Prairie Lightning: The Rise and Fall of William Drew Washburn. Pogo Press, 2010.
As an entreupeur and politician in the early days of Minneapolis, Washburn was involved in most of the key developments including electricity, milling, and trolleys.

Nye, David. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology. MIT Press, 1992.
Using Muncie, Indiana as a touchstone, Nye focuses on the changes to everyday life that electrification brought across the country.

Scott, Stephen and Kenneth Pellman. Living Without Electricity. Good Books, 1990.
An overview of various Amish sects and their responses to technology, including their substitutions for electricity and the philosophy behind their lifestyle choices.

Weightman, Gavin. Children of Light: How Electrification Changed Britain Forever. Atlantic Books, 2011.
Social historian Gavin Weightman charts Britain’s first experiences with electricity during the Victorian Age to the environmental concerns of today.