All the Way to the Top
Author: Annette Bay Pimentel
Illustrator: Nabi H. Ali
Picturebook biographies rarely, if ever, get my complete attention. There is something entirely too artificial about condensing a person’s life into a picturebook that doesn’t quite hack-it for me. All the Way to the Top, wisely stays away from being a definitive biography and concentrates on one portion of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffin’s activism–helping to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed into law.
Born with cerebral palsy, and using a wheelchair to help her get around every day, Keelan Chaffin was well-aware of what it was like (and still is, in some places) for an individual to experience movement restrictions prior to curb cuts, ramps, and other modifications. As a Kindergartner, she more often experienced the word STOP than she did the word GO in everyday life–experiences simply but effectively illustrated in the picturebook. From her earliest memories, she knew that the treatment she was experiences was not fair, and, not content to sit idly by, she joined the adults in working to change the treatment, and the system that allowed it.
The picturebook traces Keelan-Chaffins work, culminating with her climb, unassisted, up the United States Capitol’s steps, as she dragged herself to the top in an effort to bring attention to the much needed, and yet unpassed legislation:
She slides out of her wheelchair, scoots along the sidewalk
to the bottom of the stairway, and puts her hands on the first step.
She hauls herself up. Tiny bits of dirt and rock dig into her skin. She drags
herself up another step.
The crowd roars. Reporters surround her
with cameras and microphones, recording her gutsy climb.
“I’ll take all night if I have to,” she vows. And she
keeps heaving . . . hauling . . . dragging herself up those steps
The ADA was signed into law in 1990.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
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