Dr. Suess, Eric Carle, Bill Martin Jr- all of these authors can universally be found on the majority of young children’s bookshelves- and deservedly so. I’m here to tell you there is one more staple author you must add: Brad Meltzer.
Ordinary People Change the World is a children’s history book series by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. It’s a series with a mission: children are naturally going to seek out heroes, let’s give them real life heroes that are worth looking up to. It’s a promise that definitely is fulfilled.
My children love learning of these historical figures. Learning how they were young once, how they overcame great obstacles- many were doubted by family and friends. But they overcame and achieved. Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Lucille Ball, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln are available now- with ‘I am George Washington’ and ‘I am Jane Goodall’ being released this fall.
It’s impossible for children not to see themselves in these books. It shows them there is a light at the end of the tunnel and teaches them empathy on a whole new level. Women, people of color, and/ or those with disabilities are at the forefront of each book.
For example, Marshall has apraxia of speech. Until age three he was basically nonverbal. Much like Albert Einstein, who was also underestimated. People made fun of him but he rose above to become one of the greatest minds of all time- universally respected.
Or take Jackie Robinson. Marshall was born in Kansas City, he is a huge baseball fan and loves everything about the game. “Now imagine you weren’t allowed to play at Kauffman stadium because of the color of your skin?” I asked. I am Jackie Robinson put it into perspective for my four year old, introducing him to the history of race relations in our country and making him empathetic to those who have taken the brunt of ignorance.
I also like how Brad Meltzer doesn’t shy away from the truth. When I was in school, in northern Minnesota, learning about Rosa Parks in the late 90s- early 2000s I remember being told she didn’t get up because she was tired after a long day’s work. It was only once I attended college that I learned that that was inaccurate- she was purposefully demonstrating for herself and her people. Brad Meltzer lets his young readers know this.
Christopher Eliopoulos’ art jumps of the page. They are charming and warm- even when the content can be difficult. They have a way of making the main character seem childlike, making the young reader more easily relate to the story.
These books also build the base for the love of history and knowledge. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are my son’s very favorite books and the first ones he reaches for.
Inspire, empower, and educate your children. It’s truly never too early to introduce them to their heroes.
Who are your heroes? Who would you have loved having a book about when you were a child?
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