Annette Bay Pimentel has published two picture book biographies, Mountain Chef, which won the Carter G. Woodson Award, and Girl, Running, which was a Junior Library Guild pick and received a starred review. She lives in Moscow, Idaho. Visit her at annettebaypimental.com
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But within that bigger story are lots of little ones, chapters, scenes and volumes…
Annette Bay Pimentel, what’s your story?
The Beginning -
I love the true stories of people you’ve never heard of who did things that nudged the world in new directions. I especially love seeing those stories in picture book form, married to beautiful art.
The beginning of All the Way to the Top was long ago when I was a university student. A classmate of mine was in a wheelchair. One day she and I were headed the same direction, so I proposed we go across campus together. I was astounded to see how very difficult it was for her to navigate the pathways and buildings that I took for granted. I thought a lot about her a few years later as I followed the contentious debate over the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and since then I have watched with wonder the ways that landmark legislation and similar legislation in other countries has transformed our world.
A few years ago when I was looking for a new project, I realized that not nearly enough has been written about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I started looking for a kid-friendly way into the story. As I was researching, I found the moving story of an eight-year old girl, Jennifer Keelan, who climbed out of her wheelchair and crawled up the steps of the US Capitol to vividly demonstrate what inaccessibility is. Her story thrilled me and also left me with a sense of urgency to make sure her story be told. So I reached out to Jennifer, who is an adult now, and she and her mother graciously agreed to answer my never-ending questions about how she, even as a child, had come to be such an important crusader for disability rights.
Jennifer’s participation has been absolutely crucial to this book, so I am delighted that she wrote the foreword and is working on book promotion with me. I continue to learn from her, and we feel like the two of us make a great team.
The End, (which is always actually a new beginning!)
What’s next for you in your story?
Jennifer and I will be teaching together this spring as we share All the Way to the Top with children in elementary schools and grown-ups at Arizona State University and Emory University.
And in the meantime I’m working on two more as-yet-unannounced books with editors. It’s a continual dance between creation and sharing.
Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story Annette!
It's always interesting to find out where the ideas for these great books come from.
All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything, Illustrated by Nabigal-Nayagam Haider Ali, Foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, published by Sourcebooks releases on March 10, but you can pre-order today!
That's it from me for now, but I'll talk to you soon...