CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 25. . . .February 28, 2014
Ainslie Manson’s Roll On follows the true story of Rick Hansen and his journey on the Man in Motion World Tour during which he meets children from all over the world while raising awareness of the capabilities people with disabilities have and also raising money for spinal cord research. The tour covered 34 countries and took two years for Rick to complete, wheeling every day regardless of weather conditions. The children with whom Rick interacts punctuate the plot and carry it from one country to the next. Many of the children are disabled themselves, or they have other challenges they overcome in the story.
The book begins with Rick’s visiting a boy named Jack in the hospital. Rick explains how he became a paraplegic and how he moved forward from the accident by joining wheelchair races and playing wheelchair basketball. Before he leaves on the Man in Motion tour, Rick gives Jack some advice – to look forward and not back. Jack goes to the tour’s starting point in Vancouver, BC, where he has issues seeing past the tall reporters from his new wheelchair. The next stop in the book is Florida where Rick meets another paraplegic named Sandy who, even though she is a great artist, can’t participate in her school’s art program because the room is up several flights of stairs. Her friend Beth comes up with an idea to talk to the principal about moving the art room to the ground floor where it would be more accessible. The rest of the stops are in England, Poland, Italy, Jordan and Israel, New Zealand, Australia, China, and back to Canada where all the provinces are touched on. Rick meets children who are blind, part of a club to unite children from Jordan and Israel, and paraplegic. When Rick arrives back in British Columbia, he is greeted by a huge crowd of people, and Jack, whom Rick sees, has come a long way since they first met. Jack learns through Rick what people with disabilities are able to do if they set their minds to it.
The overriding theme of this book is awareness and accessibility and can serve as an opportunity to discuss issues of that nature with children. The beginning of the story starts without much context of who Rick Hansen is for children who haven’t heard of him, and so it might be beneficial to start with the facts at the back of the book which outline the highlights of the Man in Motion tour and explain how Rick got the idea and motivation to conquer such an ambitious task. There is also a letter at the back of the book written by Rick, himself, which serves as a nice conclusion to the story. As the story moves from country to country, there is not much text to connect the places together, and, as a consequence, children might have further questions, or they find it helpful to look at a map to see how far Rick wheeled.
The illustrations of the book appear to be acrylic paint on canvas, and they are very colourful. They indicate the mood of the story with the pages that show success being warm, bright colours and pages that show struggles mainly being cool, muted colours.
There is a big lesson and discussion within this story, and Roll On would be well-suited to a school library or home collection, especially where further conversation could be encouraged about accessibility issues and awareness for differences and challenges that we all face.
Alison Schroeder has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba and is a lover of children’s books.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.