One of Brad Meltzer’s books.

I had a grand plan. It was simple, really. As a father, I was tired of my children thinking that reality TV stars and loud-mouthed sports figures were heroes.

I tell my kids all the time: That’s fame. Fame is very different than being a hero.

To make sure my kids understood this too, I did what any logical person would do for their children. I decided to write a book for them.

I began with the story of Amelia Earhart. But when I told my daughter about Earhart’s flights across the Atlantic, my young daughter didn’t seem that impressed. In fact, she seemed downright bored, like she was reading out of an old textbook. My plan was falling apart fast. She was supposed to be inspired, and instead, her eyes were glazing over.

Panicking, I told my daughter another story about Amelia Earhart that I had discovered. When Earhart was 7 years old, she built a homemade roller coaster in her backyard. To pull it off, she took a wooden packing crate and put roller skate wheels on the bottom of it.

Then she lugged the crate to the roof of her tool shed and ran two huge planks of wood from the roof to the ground. Getting into the crate, young Amelia prepared for her first flight. Did I mention she had greased the planks with lard for extra speed?

On that day, 7-year-old Amelia Earhart went careening down two planks of greased wood, the wind hitting her face as her stomach bottomed out from under her. Indeed, when she eventually smashed into the ground and went tumbling, Amelia couldn’t have been more excited. She had taken flight for the first time, and she loved it.

As I continued to tell the story, my daughter’s eyes went wide. Now, Amelia Earhart wasn’t some black-and-white figure from an old history book. Now, Amelia Earhart was just like my daughter. Fun. Enthusiastic. And ready to embrace life.

In that moment, my grand plan changed. The result became more than a single book. It became a new series of children’s books, beginning with “I Am Amelia Earhart” and “I Am Abraham Lincoln.”

Thanks to my daughter, the books don’t just tell the renowned stories of real heroes — they also tell about the heroes when they were children. Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln weren’t born heroes. It’s vital that kids understand that our heroes were real people who started as children no different than themselves.

Look around. We live in a world that is starving for heroes. My plan was to find a solution. But in the process, my daughter reminded me of the true power within each of us.

She reminded me that heroes come in all sizes, big and small, old and young.

And most of all, she taught me that sometimes our best heroes are the family and friends we live with every day.

Brad Meltzer is a best-selling thriller writer and the host of the History Channel TV show “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.” He’s also appeared at the Tucson Festival of Books. Contact him at