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YES I CAN! by Kendra J. Barrett


A Girl and Her Wheelchair

by Kendra J. Barrett & Jacqueline B. Toner & Claire A.B. Freeland ; illustrated by Violet Lemay

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4338-2869-0
Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

A girl who uses a wheelchair goes about her everyday life.

“This is Carolyn. Like many kids her age, Carolyn loves animals, castles, and building with blocks,” opens the text, revealing its aim of conveying to readers who do not use wheelchairs that a wheelchair-using girl is just like them. Carolyn “joins right in during reading time”—but why wouldn’t she? Discussions of ordinary pleasures, such as sitting next to a friend at lunch, and everyday adaptations—a school bus with an elevator “made just for wheelchairs!” (not for people using wheelchairs?)—end with exclamation marks. This forced positivity also applies to Carolyn’s mood. “Yes I can!” she repeats over and over (not in defense but supposedly out of pure enthusiasm), which makes her sound more like a political slogan than a kid. There’s lip service paid to disappointment and frustration, but everything springs back to that can-do spirit. Lemay’s children have big heads, tiny, skinny limbs, and good cheer. Carolyn is white or light-skinned, with straight, light-brown hair; her class is multiracial. The prose is mind-numbingly dull (“She is helpful to her mom and dad and even to her baby brother”); even a drop of characterization would serve readers better than this message to kids with and without wheelchairs that wheelchair users should keep everyone’s chins up, including their own. Backmatter directed to adults is awkward and, bizarrely, adds new information about Carolyn as if she were real.

Pedantic and, contrary to its goal, exoticizing.

(Picture book. 4-6)