by Brad Meltzer (Author) Christopher Eliopoulos (Illustrator)
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Thriller writer Meltzer, who also hosts the history-themed TV show Decoded, introduces groundbreaking historical figures in the Ordinary People Change the World series, which launches with this title and I Am Abraham Lincoln (a third book, I Am Rosa Parks, is scheduled for summer 2014). Beyond the underlying message that average people are capable of greatness, the conceit on which the series turns is that each famous protagonist is pictured as a child, even at the peak of his or her adult accomplishments and fame. Eliopoulos draws Earhart as an eager, try-anything kind of girl whose oversize head, stumpy limbs, and expressive reactions strongly evoke the work of Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson. Early scenes show Earhart getting her first taste of flight via a homemade roller coaster ("That was awesome!" shouts Amelia after her "un-ladylike" crash landing), before the book moves on to her record-setting feats of aviation. Anachronisms are embraced wholeheartedly, and moments of humor balance out the plainly stated message: "Whatever your dream is, chase it." Archival photos wrap up this entertaining and inspiring primer, though source notes are absent. Ages 5-8. (Jan.)Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
K-Gr 2--Imagine, if you will, two famous Americans whose childhood selves were strong and portentous of their future adult lives but whose bodies stayed small and childlike as they achieved their incredible feats. Meltzer has chosen to portray these iconic figures in this way, perhaps in the hopes that modern-day kids will more easily identify with them. Both narratives are told in first person, which raises doubts as to whether they could truly be called biographies. For example, Amelia Earhart recounts an incident in which she and her sister built a ramp off the side of a shed so they could ride a cart off the roof. Her brother comes along and asks, "Amelia, are you sure this is a good idea?" She replies, "This isn't a good idea. It's the BEST idea!" Such conversations and the lack of resources calls the books' informational value into question. On the other hand, they each talk about the character traits that made Earhart and Lincoln wonderful role models and determined in their life pursuits. The illustrations, while a bit odd, are also rather charming. Their comiclike nature and the brief, readable text will appeal to young readers. Adults who read these books with children will have plenty to discuss regarding the hard work, persistence, and determination each person showed, as long as it's clear that the books themselves are fictionalized.--Maggie Chase, Boise State University, IDCopyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.