Ordinary People Change the World

February 10, 2018 | Charlotte Donlon

Cal has been selling books from the Ordinary People Change the World series written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos for a while now. I picked up two of the books from the display by the cash register this morning to read and write about. These books are interesting and informative and perfect options for children–and, as always, adults–to learn about people who have made an impact on the world.


I am Rosa Parks


This book provides a summary of Rosa Parks’ life and work. I love Meltzer’s focus on Parks standing up for herself and standing up for what’s right as she decided to not give into the demands to move from her seat on a bus, a decision that ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Meltzer provides a realistic glimpse of what it was like for Parks and others to live under oppression and segregation.


Meltzer writes:


“This was my school, a small, old wooden building with one room and one teacher… for all of us. Everyone from the five-year-olds to the sixth graders were stuffed in that one room. there were no windows, desks, and barely any books.


We also brought our books home every night. Why? Because we were worried that folks who hated the color of our skin would burn down our school.”


Meltzer contrasts this description with a description of a school for white kids. He writes:


“Now, there’s the school for the kids who were white. Notice the difference? It was a new brick building with beautiful windows, new desks, and plenty of books. Plus a playground.”


Eliopoulos provides detailed illustrations to further point out the differences in the two schools. It’s refreshing to read children’s literature that doesn’t shy away from our tragic history.


I am Jackie Robinson


This book provides a summary of Jackie Robinson’s childhood and career as a baseball player. The primary theme is the importance of bravery, but Meltzer presents bravery with a large dose of reality. He writes,


“Being a leader takes bravery. But remember this: No one is born brave. No matter how big or small you are, there will always be things that scare you. It’s okay to be afraid. Just don’t let it stop you.”


I also like how Meltzer addresses the need for people in power to use their power for the common good. He writes:


“There is real power in each and every one of us. Use that power to do what’s right. Use that power for a cause that you believe in. And most of all, use that power to lead and help others.”


Again, Eliopoulos’ lovely illustrations are full of details that add meaning to the story.


Next time you’re at Church Street, flip through some of the books from the Ordinary People Change the World series. There might be one that’s perfect for an ordinary child you know.


Charlotte lives in Homewood with her husband and their two children. She’s earning an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, and she does freelance writing and copywriting. You can find her online at www.charlottedonlon.com, on Twitter at @charlottedonlon, and on Instagram at @charlottedonlon. You can sign up for her weekly email newsletter about reading, writing, and creativity via her website at charlottedonlon.com. Email newsletter subscribers are invited to participate in book giveaways, too. Feel free to contact Charlotte at charlotte@charlottedonlon.com with any questions or comments!