New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer remembers living in his grandmother's one-bedroom, six-person apartment in North Miami Beach as a teenager.
The first in his family to attend a four-year college, he is now the author of more than 10 historical thrillers and the creator of Decoded, a show on the History Channel.
"I believe in ordinary people and their ability to change the world," he says. "Every genre I work in, it's always that same theme. It's because that's my own story."
A father of three, Meltzer wants to show his children that they can change the world.
"We're all born the same," he says. "The only question is what you do with your time here, and that's what these stories tell."
His children's series, Ordinary People Change the World, tells the stories of our nation's greatest and how they accomplished the inconceivable. By humanizing historical figures, such as Amelia Earhart and Martin Luther King, Jr., Meltzer hopes to give people of all ages someone to call a hero.
"I was tired of my own kids looking at reality television stars and thinking, 'that's a hero,'" he says. "I try to explain to them that that's fame, and fame is really different than a hero."
On September 6, Meltzer's I am Jane Goodall and I am George Washington hit shelves nationwide, detailing the journeys of the primate scientist and our country's first president.
"These aren't the stories of famous people," he says. "They are the stories of ordinary people who accomplished great things."
These two figures will join the other nine in the series, which include Jackie Robinson and Lucille Ball. The 11 people in the series were chosen by instinct and, at times, selfishness, Meltzer says.
"I picked Jackie Robinson for my son because he's a sports nut," he says. "Lucille Ball was for my daughter because I wanted her to have a female entertainment hero who wasn't just famous for sitting pretty. "
Although the heavily-illustrated books are written for a younger audience, they're also meant for older children and adults, who Meltzer believes are starving for good heroes.
"We're just like the people in the books," he adds. "We are all capable of changing the world."
A Special Evening with Brad Meltzer
On Saturday, September 10, Meltzer will be at Books & Books (285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables) to debutI am Jane Goodall
andI am George Washington.
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begins at 7 p.m. and includes a signing.