I get a kick when I see comic book creators cross over into other fields. Guys like Neal Adams and Barry Windsor Smith did commercial illustration work. Jack Kirby did storyboard work in Hollywood, most noticeably seen in the movie Argo. Steve Gerber served as a story editor for a lot of animated cartoon series in the 1980s and 1990s.
This week, I want to take a look at two guys with ties to the comic book world making their mark with a series of children’s books. Writer Brad Meltzer and artist Chris Eliopoulos have partnered together for a line of books, Ordinary People Change the World. These books are taking a look at famous people from history, and presenting their story for a younger audience to understand and appreciate.
Meltzer is best known for his suspense novels uncovering hidden secrets in Washington, D.C., but he has also logged writing stints on Green Arrow, Justice League of America, and Identity Crisis. In recent years, Meltzer put together essay collections of famous people to provide examples to his children of real-life heroes. Building on the success of those books, a line of children’s books was launched in 2014.
Eliopoulos has lettered hundreds and hundreds of comics over the years, primarily for Marvel. He has done some writing and drawing of his own books, including the Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius series of one-shots and Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers. With the Franklin Richards series, Eliopoulos refined a style that resembles a 3D marriage of Charles Schultz (Peanuts) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes). That style is used in these books, as the featured characters are presented as child-size, regardless when the events in their story takes place in their life.
The stories focus on famous Americans who have overcome some level of adversity in their life that helped them change the world for the better. The initial books in the series focused on Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and Rosa Parks. Each story tells a simplified take on the events of that person’s life, building on a theme that is recounted throughout the book. For example, with the I Am Abraham Lincoln book, the courage to do what is right in reinforced throughout the story, whether it is a young Lincoln standing up to bullies or a President Lincoln freeing the slaves during the Civil War.
Other released books in the series include Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Lucille Ball, Helen Keller, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Books scheduled for release later this year will profile Jane Goodall and George Washington.
These books are aimed at the Kindergarten to Third Grade readers, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them like crazy. Eliopoulos’ characters are so entertaining, and I wish he could have his own ongoing title using characters in this style. If you have readers in the series’ target range, I would encourage you to add these books to your personal library.
A special thank you this week goes out to Tara Payton, Library Media Specialist at Madison Place Elementary School. I know a school full of young readers keeps her busy enough Monday through Friday, but she took time out of her schedule last week to help this inquisitive parent. Further proof that librarians are heroes, too!