Fifty-two portraits of real-world heroes, from that “troublemaker” Abe Lincoln to Miep Gies, the “lawbreaker” who hid Anne Frank and her family.
Originally issued in 2010 and reprinted with only minor changes, Meltzer’s gallery pairs black-and-white portraits—photos, except for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—with pithy proofs of, in his view, each figure’s admirable character. Washington, for instance, he touts not for winning a war but for voluntarily stepping down from the presidency when he could easily have remained in power. Some of his choices, such as Charlie Chaplin and George H.W. Bush, may not look so heroic upon fuller examination. Still, it’s hard not to agree when he lauds the courage of Special Olympics swimmer Andy Miyares, the Wright Brothers (“Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. But never ever, ever give up”), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. He also praises Frank Shankwitz, founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other philanthropists; Fred Rogers for teaching kindness; John Lennon for peace activism; and Lucille Ball for, well, being funny. He arranges his entries in no particular order, seldom adds much biographical detail, and occasionally lets rhetoric trump clarity, telling readers that Einstein “questioned the status quo. His idea? Everything is full of energy. His conclusion? E=mc2.” Most of his choices are white, male, and Euro-American, but he does include 15 women, a dozen African-Americans, and a handful of world citizens. He also leaves blank pages for readers to write in heroes of their own.
An earnest if jumbled effort to point out character-building values. (Nonfiction. 10-13)