Review: Fighting for Yes!

Fighting for Yes! The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann

by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger

Abrams, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Sarah Aronson

Buy at

Who likes to hear no? Nobody, that’s who. And luckily for our country, Judith Heumann didn’t stop when all she heard was no. Because of her and many others, people with disabilities finally got the yes they deserved—the yes of equal rights.

Since I’m a former physical therapist with a firsthand look at how people with disabilities are treated, I was already a fan of Judith Heumann, and I couldn’t wait to read Maryann Cocca-Leffler’s FIGHTING FOR YES, THE STORY OF DISABILITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST JUDITH HEUMANN, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger. Judith’s is a story of activism. It’s a story about learning. It’s a story about the determination that people like Judith needed to fight for equality—and get it.

The text begins with Judith’s Jewish upbringing and the early obstacles she faced just trying to get an education. As the obstacles get bigger, readers will cheer for Judith until Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act becomes law. Mildenberger’s illustrations do a wonderful job of showing the people with disabilities—their faces and bodies—not just their wheelchairs, as well as the formidable obstacles they faced. It is profound to read about Judith’s efforts to be included and how all those no’s didn’t stop her. I was drawn to her confidence and interest in community. Judith is a trailblazer! The text chronicles not just her actions, but the chutzpah she needed keep learning, fighting, and winning. A particularly agonizing moment was when her high school principal did not want her to come on stage to accept an award. In the end, readers will cheer. They will also be ready to look at the world and ask if we are indeed inclusive. Why aren't all buildings ADA compliant?

The triumph at the end will send readers to the stacks looking for more books about inspiring Jewish activists and information about laws that citizens had to fight for. The book ends with a personal note from Judith as well as back matter and resources.

This book is highly recommended. It is a story of a Jewish woman’s quest for equality, tikkun olam, and justice. 

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Sarah Aronson began writing books when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has written many books for kids and teens including Just Like Rube Goldberg, illustrated by Robert Neubecker, and Brand New Bubbe, illustrated by Ariel Landy. Her next picture book is a picture book biography of her hero, the trailblazer, Bella Abzug! When Sarah's not writing, you can find her teaching at The Highlights Foundation. Sarah can be found online at