Every age has its heroes. Every child has at one time or another needed a hero – someone to look up to and admire. I tried to think of some heroes of the past. When I was young I remember others my age being smitten by the Beatles. Others have adored Elvis, admired Billy Graham or JFK, been amazed and amused by Will Rogers’ rope tricks and writings, or loved the movie heroism of cowboys Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, or Tom Mix.
Today, (OK, I’m getting old) I see more “anti”-heroes than real heroes being adulated by our youth. Really, do we want our children to look up to Lady Gaga? Do we want them to imitate the actions of Lindsey Lohan? Do we truly want them to keep up with the Kardashians?
Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter were written by Brad Meltzer. Meltzer is an author better known for writing suspense and thrillers as well as comic book series, so this type book is a real change of pace for him.
It all began with the birth of his son. Brad wanted to write a book for his son – one that would serve him well for all his life. Meltzer started to write, but was coming up with platitudes like “Be good”, as if writing that were enough to make him be good. Meltzer said he wanted his son to be so amazed at the book that “Norman Rockwell himself would need to be resurrected to paint the picture of it.” He realized that what he was coming up with was not going to be what he wanted.
He recalled hearing that the Wright Brothers would bring extra materials to their flight test locations to be prepared for multiple crashes. That way they could repair their planes on the spot and continue their testing. Meltzer like the way a simple story can teach perseverance and about not giving up.
As a result, he decided to write a book to his son (and later his daughter when she began demanding, “Where the heck’s my book?”) as a collection of small stories, each highlighting a different hero and his or her character trait. The result is a slim volume of stories of famous and not-so-famous people. On the left-hand page is a picture of the person, their character trait, and a snippet about them. The right hand page features the story about the person, along with a quote from the person.
Many of the people in these books are those you would expect to see in books about heroes and heroines. Others are surprising. Still others, I’d never heard of! I expected to see stories about Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie and the like and was not disappointed. I’d never heard of Alex Scott, an 8 year old dying of cancer who opened a lemonade stand and ultimately raised millions of dollars. Then there is Dan West; he began Heifer International.
The most surprising heroes to me were the Three Stooges! You say, “The same Three Stooges who name-call, poke each other in the eyes, and are generally numskulls?”! Yes. Surprising, huh? They are cited for being “subversives”. In 1940, almost two years before Pearl Harbor, during a time when many in the U.S. were promoting isolationism or neutrality, the Three Stooges had the courage to go against public sentiment and make fun of Hitler in their film short, You Nazty Spy!, pre-dating Charlie Chaplin’s ridicule of Hitler in The Great Dictator by several months. The sequel, I’ll Never Heil Again, followed in 1941. Both film shorts can be found on YouTube.
These books are each quick reads and enjoyable for both young people and adults. You will learn something you may not have known about many of the celebrities. You will learn about new people and perhaps find a new hero. There’s even a place at the end of the book to place a photo and write up about your personal hero. Of course, to do that, you’ll have to buy a copy of the book; we won’t let you add your heroes to the library’s copies of the books!