Review: Brad Meltzer Introduces Walt Disney & Marie Curie to Young Readers

I am Walt Disney cover

Ever since 2016, Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos have steadily been crafting installments of their popular Ordinary People Who Change the World series of children's books, focussing on key, inspirational historical figures.

With nearly two dozen books published in the Penguin Random House series and counting, the next two installments focus on two particularly iconic figures in I Am Walt Disney and I Am Marie Curie, focusing on the groundbreaking entertainer and business tycoon and the prolific chemist and physicist at a time when the very idea of women working in science was revolutionary.

True to its title and edict, I Am Walt Disney shows the origins of the man who would one day launch a multimedia empire bearing his name from his humble roots as a boy in Missouri to his days as a struggling businessman and animator who had to declare bankruptcy when his first company failed miserably.

However, true to the series' mission statement, Disney is undeterred by his earlier hardships and goes on to change the entire world as we know it while proving that everyday magic can exist if you just believe.

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I Am Marie Curie similarly delves into the upbringing and rise of its eponymous protagonist in the world of science. Long before winning multiple Nobel Prizes for her work radically advancing how we see the world around us by discovering a new element, Curie has to travel from tsarist Russia to make a new life for herself in France where she undergoes a complete reinvention upon finally beginning her collegiate education in a more repressive, cruder time where women were significantly undervalued in virtually every aspect of life.

At this point, Meltzer has been not only been writing about history extensively but been penning new installments in the Ordinary People Who Change the World series for years, making him well-seasoned in presenting these two figures. Despite this, the formula itself never feels stale and, in regards to the Disney book in particular, it is clear that writing these stories has a noticeable deal of personal investment from Meltzer himself.

Meltzer is unafraid to showcase the hardships and adversity that both of these people endured before becoming the historical icons we know them as, while keeping it all family-friendly and accessible to young readers.

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Just as Meltzer's voice as a writer has been firmly established since the start of the book series and continues to deliver, Christopher Eliopoulos' artwork still elevates the material to new kid-friendly heights. A lot of the humor and accessibility of the content covered comes from Eliopoulos' visuals, reminiscent of Charles Schulz's famous character work with Peanuts, yet still identifiably possessing its own visual sensibilities. There is a warmth to the artwork that complements Meltzer's writing perfectly, making the icons instantly recognizable and welcoming as they progress into the history-making figures we know them as.

Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos' Ordinary People Change the World continues as strong as ever as it welcomes Walt Disney and Marie Curie into the fold. Each book is full of real-life factoids that may surprise even those greatly familiar with both figures before reading the book (Did you know Marie Curie's birth name wasn't actually "Marie" at all?) while also covering the big, noteworthy moments of their lives.

Accessible, entertaining and all ages-friendly, the creative team continues to show that society's most pivotal, inspirational figures can come from anywhere so long as they hold the course and weather the sticks and stones that life can bring to become the real-life legends that they are now revered as.

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