HEROES FOR MY SON represents a change of pace for Brad Meltzer, an immediately recognizable name in the world of literary thrillers and sequential art books. The idea for this project arose at the time of his oldest son’s birth. As he notes in the introduction, Meltzer initially intended to fill his book with advice and good ideas. But he ultimately began compiling a list of people who he felt possessed virtues and talents that he wanted to share with his son. Before he was finished, that list included the 52 individuals profiled here. The result is a slender, square-bound book that devotes two pages to each person mentioned.
While many of the individuals memorialized here are household names, there are several who will not be known to everyone and at least two who will be unfamiliar to (almost) anyone. And Meltzer has cast a wide enough net with his selections that there are a number of people chosen who may not be on everyone’s list, to say the least. Meltzer is aware of this, and in fact encourages those who pick up the book to create their own list of heroes for their children. Indeed, he includes a place at the conclusion for readers to make an entry.
Still, there are many --- famous or otherwise --- whose place would seem to be ordained and approved by all. Of course, one will almost immediately recognize Harper Lee, Mark Twain, Rosa Parks, and George Washington, among a number of others. It is with the inclusion of less familiar figures, however, where the book really shines. One might not be immediately familiar with the name “Frank Shankwitz.” He is not an actor or a politician, but rather the motorcycle police officer who was inspired to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Miep Gies is not a household name, for sure, but if not for him, the world might never have known of Anne Frank. And while Andy Miyares is not an A-list celebrity, he rates a place here as someone who should be.
Through his simple and direct prose, Meltzer clearly and concisely demonstrates why he made the choices he did when selecting his heroes. The odds are fairly good that your hero is in this book. Mine --- Chesley B. Sullenberger III --- is among those listed, as are a number of people I would not have thought of and a couple who I would not have included under any circumstances. That, however, is the beauty of this work, and of Meltzer’s suggestion that readers construct their own lists. It is indisputable, though, that two of the most important entries in HEROES FOR MY SON are placed at the end of the book. And if a revised version is ever published, there is a Little League coach in Broward County, Florida, who should be included as well.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011