Separate Is Never Equal

Separate Is Never Equal

Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Book - 2014
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A 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a "Whites only" school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.Praise for Separate is Never EqualSTARRED REVIEWS"Tonatiuh masterfully combines text and folk-inspired art to add an important piece to the mosaic of U.S. civil rights history." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Younger children will be outraged by the injustice of the Mendez family story but pleased by its successful resolution. Older children will understand the importance of the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools, paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later." --School Library Journal, starred review "Tonatiuh (Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote) offers an illuminating account of a family's hard-fought legal battle to desegregate California schools in the years before Brown v. Board of Education." --Publishers Weekly "Pura Belpré Award-winning Tonatiuh makes excellent use of picture-book storytelling to bring attention to the 1947 California ruling against public-school segregation." --Booklist "The straightforward narrative is well matched with the illustrations in Tonatiuh's signature style, their two-dimensional perspective reminiscent of the Mixtec codex but collaged with paper, wood, cloth, brick, and (Photoshopped) hair to provide textural variation. This story deserves to be more widely known, and now, thanks to this book, it will be." --The Horn Book Magazine
Publisher: New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS, ©2014.
ISBN: 9781419710544
Characteristics: 40 pages :,colour illustrations, portraits (some colour) ;,29 cm.


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caleherreman Sep 21, 2020

This is a book about an important, but overlooked, milestone in the struggle for civil rights.

Told from the point of view of Sylvia Mendez, it is the story of her parents' efforts to change a system that had Mexican-American children going to inadequate, segregated schools, and justified it with false narratives about race and culture.

Author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh depicts the situation a in a Mexican folk art style that gives the characters and their heritage a dignity that the racist society they struggled against tried to deny them.

Sep 07, 2020

I liked the book, but not the art. I got this book because a father was appalled that a teacher was using this book to teach students to feel guilty and hate themselves for being white. The book does not teach these things, although a teacher could try to spin that racist message. This book is the true story of a girl dealing with discrimination and segregation. People nowadays need to be careful not to go down that same racist path. I hear whites are not being allowed in some areas/businesses/gatherings. Rioters, looters, and arsonists are sparing black owned businesses but not others. Reverse racism is still racism.

JuliaK_KCMO Mar 31, 2017

Long before Brown v. Board of Education, there was a little Mexiccan-American girl in California who wondered why she and her brothers had to go to school in a far-away shack while other children -- including her own fairer-skinned cousins -- attended the nicer one in their own neighborhood. Tonatiuh's simple but powerful story shows how the Mendez family helped end desegregation in California schools.

JCLMichelleR Mar 03, 2017

I regret to say that I had no prior knowledge of this powerful fight for desegregation in California. Tonatiuh does a remarkable job making this case and story accessible to children. It is important to continually fight the lies of racial inferiority and work to embrace each other and lift each other up to our full potential.

Jan 17, 2017

Good coverage of an early desegregation case. Was not too keen on the artist's interpretation of people's mouths.

JCLBeckyC Jan 17, 2017

Kids of all backgrounds can relate to this story of young Sylvia and her family as they fight for fair treatment, leading to the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools seven years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

Apr 07, 2016

"When you fight for justice, others will follow.", said Sylvia's mother. That's one of the important take-aways from this true story of the fight initiated by one family to integrate schools in California.

LMcShaneCLE Feb 13, 2016

This civil rights case predates Brown vs. the Board of Education and shows how segregation also affected Americans with heritage from Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Sylvia was told she had to go to the Mexican school, even though she and her parents were Americans and spoke English, and the Mexican school was farther from their home in Orange County. The lawsuit that her family brought—and won—helped pave the way for the Brown v. Board of Education. Picture book format.

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Sep 07, 2020

bell5133 thinks this title is suitable for 5 years and over

Apr 07, 2016

DUVALL LIBRARY thinks this title is suitable for 6 years and over


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