MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One of South Florida’s biggest exports is author Brad Meltzer, who’s gone from roaming the halls at North Miami Beach Senior High to selling millions of books all over the world.
Known for his thrillers, some of his most popular books these days are from his line of biographies aimed at kids.
They focus on real life heroes.
“Our kids are going to pick heroes whether we like it or not,” Meltzer said. “So we might as well have a say in it. And that’s where we began. I said, ‘I can give them better heroes than what they see on TV every day.’”
Meltzer started writing the “I Am” books for his own kids.
“I was personally tired of my kids looking at reality TV show stars and big mouth athletes, and thinking that’s a hero,” he said. “I tell my kids all the time, that’s fame. And being famous is very different than being a hero.”
To Meltzer, a hero has to help others – and also has to overcome adversity. Even failure.
He’s written, “I Am Martin Luther King Jr,” “I Am Rosa Parks,” “I Am Albert Einstein” and “I Am Abraham Lincoln.”
His latest is “I Am Jim Henson” – the beloved creator of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
“One of the things I learned about Jim Henson is that when he was a teenager, he wanted to work in TV. It was his dream,” Meltzer explained. “They told him they had no jobs, but as he’s leaving he sees a sign that says we’re looking for puppeteers so he goes to the library and takes out books on puppetry and then he goes back and applies for the job, saying ‘I’m a puppeteer.’ And that’s his break. That’s the lesson I want to teach my kids: when you see an obstacle, you go around it. That’s one of Jim Henson’s great legacies.
Brad’s ‘I Am’ books are inspiring school kids here in South Florida, and all over.
Meltzer has pictures that kids have sent to him of them dressed up as their new heroes.
“I think what they’re responding to more than anything is that they feel there’s something good in the universe that they can achieve,” Meltzer said. “I think there’s something that is magnetic about the idea of someone saying you can do this, and here’s proof that you can do it.”
Brad tells his subjects’ ups and downs – their path from normal kid to extraordinary human being.
It’s a formula that’s working. Sales have soared, especially in the months surrounding the recent election. He thinks it’s because we’re a country that’s starving for heroes.
“It’s no surprise to me that at a time when we’re ripping each other apart politically, when it’s us versus them, the country still wants to get back to we,” he said. “And so what you do is you find new heroes. You find people who can take you there. You find Dr. Martin Luther King. You find Rosa Parks. And there are parents and grandparents all over the country now who are taking our books and saying forget what a politician is. Let me show you what a leader is.
With all his success, Meltzer hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I’m a product of the South Florida public school system,” he said. “The Dade County public schools. My 9th grade English teacher said three words to me that changed my life: you can write. And Miss Shiela Spicer was the first person outside my family who told me I was good at something. It changed my life. I forever owe her, I forever owe the Florida public schools for how they changed my life. I sit here today because of English teachers who took a chance on me.”
Meltzer will be appearing at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Saturday, January 14th at 7 p.m. to sign copies of his new book.
The store is located at 265 Aragon Avenue.