By Annette Bay Pimentel
Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
All the Way to the Top tells the story of Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins and how she came to participate in the Capital Crawl when she was just 8 years old! The Capital Crawl was a protest considered to be instrumental in getting the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990. As I work to diversify the stories told in my book collection, including people with disabilities is important to seek out…and can be challenging to find. All the more reason to check out this title!
This story is an excellent introduction to activism and the disabilities rights movement for even the youngest readers. The story begins with Jennifer’s neighborhood school not accepting her because she uses a wheelchair…and later when they do allow her to attend she isn’t allowed to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Young readers can readily connect to how this must feel and the injustice of it.
With the support of her family, Jennifer meets activists working to make public places, including schools, accessible to people with disabilities. She and her family travel to a variety of protests where Jennifer is often invited to speak. She quickly learns that it feels good to speak up about her experiences. Students can be reminded that they can change the world with their words.
Finally, Jennifer’s grit and determination are clear when she joins physically disabled protesters who must pull themselves up the stairs of the Capital building in Washington D.C. She declares, “I’ll take all night if I have to,” because nothing will stop her from reaching all the way to the top!
You can see video of Jennifer talking about the Capital Crawl and footage from the actual day here.
You can hear Jennifer read the book herself here.