Best-selling author Brad Meltzer joins GBH’s Henry Santoro to talk about two new books in his “I Am” children’s book series, “I am Benjamin Franklin” and “I am Anne Frank.” Along with illustrator Chris Eliopoulos, Meltzer tells the stories of important historical figures to inspire kids around the world. His book series has now been adapted to a PBS Kids show, “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.” The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Henry Santoro: New York Times number one best-selling author Brad Meltzer writes in every genre there is. His suspense novels are so addicting you can't put them down. His nonfiction books focus on historical events that include the likes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and events in their lives that you probably didn't know about. And then there’s the “I Am” series of books for children, where Brad and illustrator Chris Eliopoulos tell the life stories of some of the most important people in history. People like Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Billie Jean King, and Gandhi, to name just a few. There are now 22 books in the series, and it's great to have Brad Meltzer back on GBH to tell us about the two newest books: “I am Benjamin Franklin” and “I am Anne Frank.” Brad, so glad to have you back.

Brad Meltzer: Oh, so good to be here.

Henry Santoro: There is something that I learned from this book, “I am Benjamin Franklin” and that is — and I did not know this — that he was the creator of the very first political cartoon.

Brad Meltzer: He was, and in fact, I just bought a T-shirt with it because I loved it so much, but it was a snake that was basically chopped up. It says, “Join or Die.” You've seen it. Many people have seen it. But it was Benjamin Franklin who made it, and he makes it 10 years before the American Revolution. He's one of the proponents for the free press. In fact, that page you're talking about has one of the great moments. These lessons in the past teach us things about the president. Benjamin Franklin says people always have disagreements. He would publish different opinions, things that said the opposite things. He's like, “That's not a bad thing.”

Henry Santoro: And it's amazing that we go back hundreds of years to come up with something that makes sense even today.

Brad Meltzer: For me, that's what it has to be. These are never just history books. They’re moral lessons. That's what I want my kids to have. And what Benjamin Franklin worked on more than anything was not about the lightning or about the things he's famous for. But he realized the way to change the world is you got to change yourself.

Henry Santoro: As each book wraps up, we are, of course, introduced to some modern-day kids who are curious, animated cartoon kids who are also PBS TV stars. These kids are the stars of “Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum”, the offshoot of the “I am” series. What roles do these kids play in the books? Because they always came in late in the book after the story has been established, and it's like they're setting now the precedent for bringing this person into modern day.

Brad Meltzer: Yeah, so what we always do at the end of the book is we have these big splash pages where you can see lots of little kids talking to the reader, breaking the fourth wall and talking to your kids about something about that hero. And, as you know, “Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum” is the TV show they based on our kids book that runs on WGBH, and we love being on there, and they give the best lessons. The lessons they give in this book, “I am Anne Frank,” is Anne Frank used to always look out the window in the attic at a chestnut tree. She’d watch it in winter and watch the leaves fall off. In spring, she’d watch the leaves come back. But the tree was blown down in 2010. But what they tell you on the back of the book is the saplings from that tree were grabbed before it got knocked down and were planted all around the world. And today, there are chestnut trees blooming all around the world from the sapling and the seeds of Anne Frank's chestnut tree. That is the best metaphor that I could give any kid to remind them that as long as we tell the story of the Holocaust, as long as we tell the stories of hope, Anne Frank lives forever.

Henry Santoro: That's finding the light in the darkest places for sure. Brad Meltzer is the author of the “I Am” children's book series. They're available everywhere, and do tune in to GBH and PBS for “Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum” on PBS to meet, and get to know, Brad's animated family.

Brad Meltzer: And thank you for letting us inspire kids all over the country. It means more than you know.

GBH News Intern Charles Xu assisted with production.