Attorney releases latest book featuring Einstein

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News
It was a clothes-shopping trip almost four years ago with his then-8-year-old daughter that gave New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer the impetus behind his new series of children’s books. All they could find were shirts featuring Disney princesses and big-name pro athletes. It was then Meltzer had an epiphany: He wanted his children to see true heroes, not just Disney princesses and star athletes. “Our definition of ‘heroes’ is broken. We’ve confused ‘fame’ and ‘hero.’ This is my way of trying to set it right… Look around. We live in a world that is starving for heroes. This is our solution,” said Meltzer, 44, an alumnus of the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School. Thus the “I Am” books were born. Three books have already been published this year – “I Am Abraham Lincoln,” “I Am Amelia Earhart,” and “I Am Rosa Parks.” The next, “I Am Albert Einstein” (Penguin Young Readers Group $12.99) was released September 16. “Albert Einstein inspires so many people – and not just for his curiosity,” explained Meltzer. “Over the past few months, parents with autistic kids have approached me, telling me how much Einstein means to them. Einstein was the boy who was different than everyone else. He thought different, and when younger, even spoke different. Especially these days, it’s a lesson we all need to hear: Being different doesn’t have to be a weakness; sometimes it can be your greatest strength.”
In the “I Am,” the historical figures are drawn as children. “We always tell our kids Abraham Lincoln or Amelia Earhart’s achievements as adults. But in each book, we show them as kids. We tell their stories as kids. And as a result, we remind our own kids what they’re capable of… These aren’t the stories of famous people. They’re stories of what we’re all capable of on our very best days,” he said.  Illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, this series is aimed at children ages 3-10. A new “I Am” book published every several months. The fifth in the series — “I Am Jackie Robinson” — will be released in January. Later books will feature “Muppets” and “Sesame Street” creator Jim Henson and actress Lucille Ball. “When I was at (U-M), perhaps the most vital class I took was called ‘Writing Children’s Books’ by a professor named Carolyn Balducci,” said Meltzer. “I loved it so much, the professor let me retake it 3-4 times. Seeing how much I loved it, she just let me create and write children’s books. Without her, these current books wouldn’t exist. I owe her forever for that. She believed in me. These books were really born in Michigan.”
Like Meltzer’s political/legal thrillers, the “I Am” books have been fixtures on best-selling lists, including The New York Times. But the bigger thrill for the author is the positive feedback he’s been getting.
“(I’m) just humbled and blown away. I’ve gotten pictures of kids dressed as Amelia Earhart, and one who had an Abraham Lincoln birthday cake,” said Meltzer. “That’s simply the greatest. Our goal is to help people build a library of real heroes for their kids.”
Besides “I Am Albert Einstein,” Meltzer has several other projects across several different media coming out in the months ahead.
It was recently announced that “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History,” a new documentary series, will air on The History Channel later this fall. “The famous flag from 9/11 is missing. So is the Wright Brothers’ patent for the airplane. Our history is being stolen. On the show, we’ll be trying to find these items and get them back. And we’re offering a reward. We need America’s help,” said Meltzer. “I found out how many items were missing. It just broke my heart. This was the best way to help get them back.”
In December, the 10th anniversary edition “Identity Crisis” will be released by DC Comics. “Identity Crisis” is a murder mystery where someone is targeting the loved ones of super-heroes. Nobody is safe, not even Superman and Batman. “I honestly can’t believe it’s been that long,” he said. “I’m still getting people reading it for the first time and telling me it’s what got them into comics.”
Earlier this year, he wrote a Batman story to celebrate the character’s 75th anniversary. “(DC) asked me to retell the very first Batman story (from 1939’s “Detective Comics” No. 27). How could anyone possibly do that? So my goal wasn’t to retell it. I only wanted to honor it. Batman is one of the world’s most perfectly defined characters. So all I had to do was listen to him,” said Meltzer. In June 2015, his next political thriller, “The President’s Shadow,” will be released. Meltzer’s tight-lipped about the plot. However, it features Beecher White – Meltzer’s first series character – an archivist with the National Archives and a member of the Culper Ring, a clandestine network of spies founded by George Washington during the American Revolution. Beecher joins the Culper Ring after learning it still exists to this day.
“Beecher was always structured to deal with more problems than my normal characters,” said Meltzer. “I wanted him to last.”

When researching his previous Beecher novel “The Fifth Assassin” – where a killer plans to assassinate the President of the United States – Meltzer interviewed former President George H.W. Bush. “Bush was extremely helpful. I’ll always ask him about little details about White House life that only he and a few others could possibly know. But asking a President about the hidden staircase in the White House residence is different than asking him about what it’s like to know that someone’s out there planning your death. His answers for sure helped the story,” explained Meltzer. He continued: “I love doing research. So I always start with the real history… Where I grew up, writing wasn’t a ‘real job.’ And thankfully, it still isn’t. I get paid to talk to my imaginary friends all day long – what could be better that?” 

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