Brad Meltzer is now writing books for kids! Best known for his bestselling thrillers for adults, Brad Meltzer has also written bestselling nonfiction, advice and comic books. (Did you know he is the host of the History Channel’s Decoded too?) Booksource had the opportunity to interview this multi-talented guy about his latest endeavor—a new picture book biography series for early childhood called Ordinary People Change the World. We think this new series rocks, and we know it will be a hit in the classroom! Read on to hear what our favorite new children’s book author has to say about writing it:

What inspired you to write emergent reader picture book biographies?

Blame my daughter. A few years back, I was looking for clothing for her, and all I could find were shirts with princesses on them. And I thought, as someone who’s around so much history, there are so many better heroes I can give her. So I asked a friend to draw me a cartoon picture of Amelia Earhart. I wrote the words “I Am Amelia Earhart” on it — and on the back I wrote, “I know no bounds.” My daughter loved it. Then my wife wanted one. And her friends wanted one. And the more I told her about Amelia Earhart, the more she fell in love. It made me realize: Once our kids hear about these real American heroes, they react the same way we all do. They’re inspired. They dream bigger. They work harder. Right there, these books were born.

I was amazed to learn so much about a historical figure in a 32-page picture book! Describe your research and creative process. How did you decide what and what not to include?

The research is the fun part. I wanted my kids to see real heroes…and real people no different than themselves. For that reason, the books tell the story of the heroes when THEY were kids. We see them as children. So it’s not just Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln being famous—it’s about them being just like us. So it’s amazing to read about Abraham Lincoln when he’s 10, or Amelia Earhart when she’s 7. The best part is, they’re just like us. No one is born a hero.

Your biographies cite specific life events. Are all of these factual?

All the stories you read about their younger lives are true. Amelia Earhart DID build a homemade roller coaster in her backyard. Lincoln did save turtles from mean bullies. Obviously, we’ve added a few jokes (like when Lincoln tells everyone, “I’m gonna be on the penny one day.”). But the stories of their lives are real.

What do you think Christopher Eliopoulos’s illustrations added to the story? How did the speech bubbles come about?

I knew Chris’s work from comics, but the reason I was so insistent about working with him was he can do that Calvin & Hobbes/Peanuts thing where the characters aren’t just funny — they’re lovable. You dream with them, fail with them and smile with them. It’s so much harder than you think. Chris is just amazing at showing heart. As for the word balloons, it’s just that we both grew up reading comics.

If you could meet one (just one!) of the people featured in your series, who would it be? What would you ask them?

Abraham Lincoln. No question. And I’d bring him a penny. And a turtle.

Prior to this series you’ve published thrillers and nonfiction for adults. Did you run into any unexpected challenges writing for children?

When I work on the thrillers, I only need to make myself laugh. For I Am Albert Einstein and all the kids’ books, I need to make my kids laugh. That’s harder. Think about it. Did you ever think your parents were funny? Lucky for me, I have artist Chris Eliopoulos to rely on. So when Einstein screams that he has such awesome hair, they think that’s Chris’s joke. Don’t tell my kids. Otherwise, I don’t really see a difference. To me, a good story has to be a good story. Remember: stories aren’t what did happen. They’re what could happen.

Want to read more about this series? Read the Booksource staff review.