As rough as many aspects of the 1950's and the 1960's were, some things were much simpler than they are today. We had some heroes who everyone could agree were the good guys. Who didn't love watching Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle and Cassius Clay? How could America not root for Wilma Rudolph, who was told she would never walk and went on to become the fastest woman in the world? Was there a young girl (or boy) in those decades whose heart didn't beat just a bit faster when Ed Sullivan announced Elvis Presley or The Beatles as his guest performers? No matter your political leanings at that time, you always felt a little awed when hearing about the adventures of Alan Shepard (first American in space), John Glenn (first American to orbit earth), and Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon). Even their wives became heroes in their own right as witnessed on this summer's T.V. Drama, The Astronauts' Wives.
My heroes of that era had to have been Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall and The Little Rock Nine, who were the first black teenagers to attend Central High School, an all white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. These nine brave teens challenged segregation in the Deep South...and won. Even the heroes that lost left our world a better place for having been in it. In 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered as they worked to register black voters in Mississippi during Freedom Summer. They were arrested on trumped up charges, released into the hands of the KKK, beaten and murdered. Their fellow heroes continued on until their battle saw some success.
Brad Meltzer, one of the top authors of the twenty-first century is trying to keep some of these heroes alive for his children's generation. We all know him as an exceptional novelist in the thriller genre, but I am proud to say that this South Florida boy is doing an equal job in children's literature with his series on ordinary people changing the world. Each book is written in graphic novel form and introduces the people we admired through the years. People like Einstein, Lincoln, Earhart and even Lucille Ball are introduced as young people who grew to change the world. Today I reviewed I Am Rosa Parks, a book that shows children the importance of standing up for what they believe is right. Once again Meltzer shows his ability to reach all ages in his writing.
Mary Higgins Clark has been reaching people for decades now as she shares her talents as a mystery writer. Ms. Clark has written 51 books in her career, and they have all been best sellers. In 1974 her first novel, Where Are the Children was published and became a best seller. She will turn 88 in December, and today I am reviewing her 51st book, The Melody Lingers On. Perhaps after forty some years on the best seller's list she belongs in one of Meltzer's series as an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.
If we think about all of these people doing all of these exceptional things against amazing odds, we have to agree with Neil Gaiman's quote and believe that we all have a bit of the dragon slayer in us. I watch daughter Beth slay the dragons that my sister and I did while trying to educate young people in a world of distractions, and I watch son Michael slay the dragons of mental illness that torment so many of his patients. In fact, my family, like all of your families, is populated with dragon slayers in all sizes and shapes. Together we will conquer all evil some day, one small victory at a time.