Review: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann

Today I’m sharing a stunning picture book biography that captures the impact and influence of one of America’s greatest living activists. Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann celebrates the life and work of disability rights activist and icon Judith Heumann, highlighting one of her landmark achievements—leading the historic 504 Sit-in in 1977.

Title: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Illustrator: Vivien Mildenberger
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: August 9, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with her childhood in New York, Fighting For Yes! highlights the many ways the world often told Judy “No”. As a child, she was turned away from multiple schools because she used a wheelchair. Though her family never treated her differently, the world held different expectations for her, and those expectations often meant she was not allowed to participate in the same activities as other kids her age.

Naturally, Judy turned to activism in her adult years. She spoke out against the unfair treatment of people with disabilities and the lack of accessibility at her university. When the New York Board of Education told Judy she couldn’t be a teacher because she used a wheelchair, she had finally had enough of the “No”s. She decided to sue the Board of Education, bringing the first disability civil rights case to a federal court. She contacted the media and rallied support for her cause. Because Judy fought back, she finally got a “Yes” instead of a “No”. She won her case and the New York Board of Education could no longer discriminate against teachers with disabilities.

But this wasn’t Judy’s major accomplishment. She went on to become an advocate for the disabled community, leading and founding organizations like Disabled In Action and The American Coalition of Citizens With Disabilities. It was with the support of this community of activists that Judy and her fellow demonstrators were able to successfully organize a sit-in lasting twenty-four days to pressure Congress to sign Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – an amendment that paved the way for the American Disabilities Act.

Fighting For Yes! wonderfully captures the fighting spirit of a woman who changed our country for the better, but I absolutely love the way it highlights the ways we can all fight for one another. Judy was a wheelchair user, but her activism didn’t stop at wheelchair access. She wanted to include ALL disabled people in her activism. This kind of inclusion is so necessary in every fight, and I love that Fighting For Yes! shares it with young readers.

Fighting for Yes! would make a wonderful addition to classroom and school libraries. The back matter contains an educational Author’s Note, as well as a note from Judith Heumann herself, giving young readers a personal look into her reflections on her achievements.

Though Fighting For Yes! officially releases next week (August 9, 2022), you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing this inspiring picture book biography with me. I am so honored to be able to share Judith’s story with my readers today!

About The Author:

Maryann Cocca-Leffler is an award-winning author and illustrator of more than 65 books for children, including The Power of Yet and We Want to Go to School! The Fight for Disability Rights. She lives and works in Portland, Maine. Visit her at http://www.maryanncoccaleffler.com. 

About The Illustrator:

Vivien Mildenberger is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including All in a Drop and The Voice that Won the Vote. She lives on a lovely farm just outside of Nashville, where she works on her illustrations, pottery, and other general magic-making.

You Might Also Like:

We Move Together

I’m a little late to the game, but that won’t stop me from sharing We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire with you all today. Released last month, this beautifully inclusive picture book focusing on disability justice is a perfect example of what Mutually Inclusive is all about.

We all move through the world in different ways, and it’s so important to provide young readers with visible examples of the many assistive devices people with disabilities use on a daily basis. Normalizing characters with disabilities in children’s literature is such a great way to accomplish this goal, and We Move Together does it flawlessly.

In We Move Together, we follow a diverse group of mixed-ability children and their families as they overcome everyday barriers and come together to connect with the disabled community. Whether it’s solving accessibility issues or preparing for a protest, We Move Together provides young readers with a wonderful example of a community working together to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

We Move Together offers more disabled representation than I’ve found in any other book. Children who use crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, ventilators, sign languages, and more will see themselves represented on every spread. The bold, colorful illustrations by Eduardo Trejos are fantastic! The careful attention to detail and accuracy in depicting all the assistive devices on each page is a wonderful example of the respect and care We Move Together shows the disabled community.

We Move Together is also an amazing resource for classrooms and school libraries. The back matter contains lots of additional information about accessibility, ableism, and the disability community.

Be sure to pick up your copy of We Move Together today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Dr. Kelly Fritsch is a disabled writer, educator, parent, and feminist disability studies scholar based in Ottawa, Canada. Please visit her website at kellyfritsch.ca to learn more about her and her work.

Anne McGuire is a disability studies scholar and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her Twitter.

Eduardo Trejos is a Costa Rican graphic designer, visual artist, and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Please visit his website at edtrejos.com to learn more about him and his work.

I also want to thank AK Press for publishing such a wonderfully inclusive book, and sending a copy my way.

Your Might Also Like: