My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you have kids, or love history, or just love great books, you need to read all of Brad Meltzer’s “I Am…”/Ordinary People Change the World books. It won’t take you long, and it’s so worth it.
I bought “I Am Jackie Robinson” and “I Am Abraham Lincoln” as gifts for a baby shower, but I’m one of those people that reads anything she can get her hands on, so upon picking them up I immediately read them. They are powerful, colorful, accessible, historically accurate (works cited at the end, even!), and inspiring.
Each book features an American hero telling their life story from their perspective. The hero is drawn as a little-kid version of themselves, even as the people they interact with move from children to adults. In addition to the more serious story type, characters talk with each other through cartoon bubbles, leading to both poignant and funny details that would be fun for a kid to read aloud while a parent/friend reads the main text.
The hero talks about an experience he/she had as a child (in Jackie’s case, not being allowed to swim in the local pool because he was black; for Lincoln, it was kids abusing a turtle) that has resonance in their later life. Jackie’s sense of injustice helped him learn to be brave, the character value that “I Am Jackie Robinson” teaches; Abraham Lincoln learned to use his voice to have an impact.
Out of these two books, I most enjoyed the Jackie Robinson book. It does nothing to diminish the difficulty of discrimination; in fact, it will be a good vehicle for modern kids to understand the unfairness of segregation. Jackie’s sadness grabbed my heart and twisted; I cried a little at the end of the story.
Maybe Jackie’s story was just particularly powerful for me because of a small amount of family history: my grandfather met Jackie while Jackie was playing college ball. He tells the story like it was no big deal at all–my Pop was more interested in the ballfield owners’ daughter–but it’s a connection to the past that makes him more important in my mind. And his courage and resilience–as well his athletic excellence!–are just undeniable.
I look forward to buying more of these books for all the kids in my life, and I hope you’ll read and share them with a young (or old!) reader in your house, too.
And then I got to meet Brad Meltzer! He’s on tour for his new book, President’s Shadow. We picked up a copy and I’m really excited to read it, but my husband called dibs. That’s fair, he “discovered” Meltzer for our household. Meltzer was incredibly nice, gregarious, and full of incredible facts. He seems like he’d make a great drinking buddy!