Wednesday, January 19, 2022


Bonnie Sherr Klein, Beep Beep Bubbie (illustrated by Élisabeth Eudes-Pascal),

Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2020 (ISBN 978192689023)

Am I reverting to childhood? After enjoying Doorkins the Cathedral Cat, now I’m reading another children's book and enjoying it, too. But then, in Matthew 18, we are told that Jesus of Nazareth said we should be like children. Full beep ahead!

It’s a charming story. Bubbie is the grandmother of two siblings, Kate and Nate. She arrives for a visit on a new scooter that beeps a lot. The group rides away on the bus to a market. Here they have a great time (told in story and art).

cover: a woman riding a scooter, pulling a kite in the air, along a lake

Along the way, there’s a lot to think about. The children face their fears and deal with them. At first, Kate is afraid that Bubbie has changed by using the scooter. But as the story proceeds, Kate learns that the scooter, like all mobility devices, is a helpful tool. The person using it is still the same beloved character.

The children also learn some history. Bubbie tells them that “long ago, people who had trouble walking were stuck indoors” (6). Although the pandemic has interfered recently, people with disabilities are no longer expected to stay at home and hide. Even the “ugly laws” and many other ableist restrictions have been repealed or removed—although anyone who tries to scoot or wheel around most areas will find that a lot of infrastructure problems remain.

For one infrastructure concern, there’s riding the bus, with all of its steps. No problem, the children learn, as the bus has a ramp. Some of us who’ve had a lot of public transit experience will be happy to learn that the ramp works and the operator knows how to use it. When the group gets on the bus, some some people complain that they have to move to clear the access space. Remarkable, isn’t it, that we also have to clear able-bodied parkers and whatnot out of accessible parking spaces.

accessible space blocked by snow plowing
blocked accessible space

At the park, other children are shown using wheelchairs, and the text states that they make friends. After playing and enjoying the market, they return, where there’s another history lesson. At home, Kate starts reading and learns about Frances Willard, who named her bicycle Gladys. In a sign of acceptance, she asks if they can name the scooter Gladys and decorate it.

In the end, this is a wonderful story about learning, one that points out many dimensions of disability and the effects of accessibility. Go Gladys!--and the next time someone asks if I want a bicycle horn for my wheelchair, I may say yes.

Disclaimer: I was provided with an electronic copy of the book in response to a call for reviews on the Disability Studies in Humanities group.