In today's hectic world, there are lots of extraordinary people doing many amazing things. Yet not too long ago, some ordinary people like you and me had their fair share of successes, too. As parents, it's important for us to teach our children about those brave individuals who dared to make a difference. New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer couldn't agree more. That's why he decided to compile a "child-sized view of history" in his series, Ordinary People Change the World. The sixth book has just been published by Penguin Young Readers. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Brad to talk about his latest release.
1. What inspired you to write a series centering on historical icons for kids?
Blame my daughter. A few years back, I was looking for clothing for her and all I could find were shirts with princesses on them. And I thought, as someone who's around so much history: There are so many better heroes I can give her. So I asked a friend to draw me a cartoon picture of Amelia Earhart. I wrote the words "I Am Amelia Earhart" on it — and on the back I wrote, "I know no bounds." My daughter loved it. Then my wife wanted one. And her friends wanted one. And the more I told her about Amelia Earhart, the more she fell in love. It made me realize: Once our kids hear about these real American heroes, they react the same way we all do. They're inspired. They dream bigger. They work harder. Right there, these books were born.
2. What criterion do you use for selecting the individuals to chronicle?
I listen to my own kids. I wrote I Am Lucille Ball because I wanted my daughter to finally have a female entertainment hero who wasn't famous just because she was thin and known only for her looks. Lucy is different than everyone else. She's funny, driven, and the first woman to run a major movie studio. Her success came from her drive -- and because she so perfectly wasn't like everyone else. Plus she taught me, throughout my own childhood, that humor can take on anything. I wanted my daughter to learn that.
3. In your latest release, I am Lucille Ball, what is the most fascinating tidbit of information you learned about her?
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Did you know she produced Star Trek and Mission: Impossible!? Plus, she had a really rough childhood. Had a grandmother who was just downright mean. Lucy proved that humor could take on anything.
4. The next release is due out in September. Would you mind sharing with us a sneak peek?
In September, we’re coming out with I Am Helen Keller. Of all the books we’ve done, this is easily one of my favorites — and perhaps the most important. In the popular culture, Helen Keller is often portrayed as someone who evokes sadness, as if she’s someone to be pitied. But Helen Keller was exuberant. Alive. She loved being outdoors since it was there that she could smell the flowers and feel the sun on her face. She danced. She rode horses. This is the girl who could anything. And did. This is a hero I want for my own daughter.
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