Brad Meltzer, whose genres-spanning roster of books includes political thrillers, inspirational nonfiction, comic books, and the Ordinary People Change the World picture book biography series, has a new entry on his resume. Montage Hotels & Resorts, a luxury hotel company headquartered in Orange County, Calif., has tapped Meltzer to be its first Literary Ambassador.
Guests with young children who check into any of Montage’s five hotels will receive a copy of one of four titles in Meltzer’s series. The books will also be integrated into Montage’s Paintbox program, a daily activities-based program offered to guests’ children ages five to 12, for which Penguin is providing activity sheets based on the series’ books. Meltzer will also contribute a “Brad’s Book of the Month” feature to Montage’s monthly online magazine and social media outlets.
Jason Herthel, president and COO of Montage Hotels & Resorts, noted that establishing the Literary Ambassador initiative is a natural extension of the company’s goals of enriching guest’s lives, nurturing creativity, and inspiring intellectual curiosity.
“When my family has checked into hotels, there are sometimes complimentary gifts for children, and it dawned on me that we could initiate a program offering more enriching giveaways tailored to our youngest guests,” he said. “As a father of three young daughters who are avid readers, I naturally thought of books as part of a children’s literacy initiative and combining it with our Paintbox children’s program. And Brad seemed an ideal choice as ambassador. Not only is his Ordinary People Change the World series informative and inspiring, he is one of very few authors who has had books on bestseller lists across a variety of genres, and we knew he would have broad recognition and appeal to our customers.”
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, Meltzer’s series, published by Dial, kicked off in January 2014 with I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln, two of the titles offered in the Montage program. The other two giveaways are I Am Jackie Robinson and I Am Lucille Ball, both released in 2015. Rounding out the series are biographies of Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and Martin Luther King, Jr. And in September, Ordinary People Change the World will welcome I Am George Washington and I Am Jane Goodall.
“I blame my own kids on a daily basis,” joked Meltzer of his inspiration for his series, adding, “I was tired of seeing them looking at reality TV show stars and loudmouth athletes and thinking they were heroes. I wanted to let kids know that before they became famous, heroes were ordinary kids, just like them, and were sometimes made fun of for being different or taking a stand. Readers really connect with these individuals when they see them as ordinary kids rather than granite statues on a pedestal. We are a country starving for heroes right now, and I am very pleased to be able to make these heroes more accessible to kids.”
Meltzer credits Eliopoulos for his significant role in making the series, which has more than 700,000 copies in print, a hit with young readers. The author met the illustrator online, and discovered that “not only is he a history nerd like I am,” but that the artist’s cartoon characters “fall somewhere between Charlie Brown and Calvin and Hobbes. It’s very easy to do cute and simple, but it’s hard to do heart – and Christopher does heart. If we want to compete with the computer screen, we need to make kids fall in love with these incredible heroes. One of my favorite comments was from a mother who thanked me, because for the first time her daughter opted not to be a princess on Halloween – but instead dressed up as Amelia Earhart.”
Jed Bennett, director of Penguin’s preschool and young readers marketing, praised Meltzer and Eliopoulos’s creative teamwork and ability to connect with readers. “The Ordinary People Change the World series strikes a chord with kids because it allows them to identify themselves with the child that someday becomes a hero,” he observed. “The text and themes of the books allow children to realize that they can become anything they set their minds on.”
Though Bennett said that Penguin has partnered with hotel chains in the past, usually on summer reading programs, this is the publisher’s first participation in a hotel program spotlighting a single author. Noting that Meltzer’s series will be available for sale in the hotels’ gift shops, Bennett remarked that joining efforts with a hotel company makes a lot of sense for a children’s publisher. “By partnering with Montage, we’re reaching kids and adults in a home away from home, and giving them something that they can engage in while away from the distractions of their day-to-day lives,” he said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to sit down and read books together – books that they can both learn from.”