Pimentel, Annette Bay (Illus. Nabi H. Ali). All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks eXplore, 2020.
Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins was born with Cerebral Palsy in 1981. She used a wheelchair to get around, and she was always ready to go. When it was time to enroll in Kindergarten however, Jennifer encountered obstacle after obstacle, from curbs with no cut-outs, to a school with stairs and policies that would allow her access to only part of a day of Kindergarten. Not long after starting school, Jennifer participated in her first protest for the rights of people with disabilities. By the time she was eight, Jennifer was a veteran activist and eager to participate in a protest in Washington, D.C. called the Capitol Crawl. It was 1990 and Congress was debating the Americans with Disabilities Act. As one of the few young activists in a group demonstrating to convince Congress to pass the legislation, Jennifer wanted to represent children with disabilities. She ignored the adults who thought she was too young to slide from her wheelchair and make the crawl up the Capitol steps, capturing the attention of the media and the legislators. Her decision to make the Crawl played a significant role in the passage of the law. In 2020, thanks to the work of Jennifer and the many activists in the Disability Rights Movement, we are marking the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In All the Way to the Top, readers learn about the work of Jennifer and other activists who won access to places and services for people living with disabilities. People living with all sorts of disabilities go to work, school, concerts, movies, sporting events, the bathroom, on public transportation, and loads of other places that were inaccessible just 30 years ago. Pimentel also emphasizes the idea that young people can make a difference, too. Anyone who feels strongly that something is unfair can and should speak up. It is valuable knowledge for all kids.
Clear language and illustrations show the world from Jennifer’s point of view. In addition to a forward by Jennifer herself, the back matter includes definitions of terms used in the book, a photograph of Jennifer climbing the Capitol steps, a timeline, and more. All the Way to the Top is strong addition to any elementary school library and a good way to mark the 30th anniversary of the ADA.
Dewey: 362.4 Interest Level: K-Grade 4
Reviews & Awards: Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal.
Older students might like: The Survival Guide for Kids with Physical Disabilities and Challenges by Wendy Moss
Fiction Pairing: Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
Film for older students: Lives Worth Living (2011). Unrated. Director Eric Neudel. Documentary. A look back at the dynamic Disability Rights Movement. Find it at https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/lives-worth-living/.