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Separate Is Never Equal
Cover of Separate Is Never Equal
Separate Is Never Equal
Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
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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...
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...
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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 Equal
    STARRED 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

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende. His books have received many awards over the years. He currently lives in San Miguel with his wife and children but travels to the US often.

Reviews-

  • DOGO Books super10 - I think this book is a great push for anti- racism. In this book the Méndez family fight for segregation. They tried to enroll 5 kids in a school. 2 white kids got in, but 3 Mexican kids didn't. The Méndez family constantly asked why, but wouldn't get a answer. But after a year of fighting, they got justice. I liked this book because it showed me that segregation is cruel, mean, and unfair. I really liked the style that the author used to draw pictures with in the book.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 3, 2014
    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. In 1944, after years of laboring as a field worker, Sylvia Mendez’s father leases his own farm in Westminster, Calif. But even though Mexican-born Mr. Mendez is a U.S. citizen and his wife is Puerto Rican, their children are banned from the local public school and told they must attend the inferior “Mexican school.” When all else fails, the Mendezes and four other families file a lawsuit. Readers will share Sylvia’s outrage as she listens to a district superintendent denigrate Mexicans (Tonatiuh drew his words and other testimony from court transcripts). Visually, the book is in keeping with Tonatiuh’s previous work, his simplified and stylized shapes drawn from Mexican artwork. He again portrays his characters’ faces in profile, with collaged elements of hair, fabric, and fibrous paper lending an understated texture. An extensive author’s note provides historical context (including that Sylvia Mendez received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011) and urges readers to make their own voices heard. Ages 6–9. (May)

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 1, 2014
    A little-known yet important story of the fight to end school discrimination against Mexican-American children is told with lively text and expressive art.Most associate the fight for school integration with the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. However, seven years earlier, Mexican-American students in California saw an end to discrimination there. The little girl at the center of that case, Sylvia Mendez, was the daughter of parents who looked forward to sending her to the school near their newly leased farm. When her aunt attempted to register the family children, they were directed to the "Mexican school," despite proficiency in English and citizenship. No one could explain to Mr. Mendez why his children were not allowed to attend the better-appointed school nearby. Despite the reluctance of many fellow Mexican-Americans to cause "problems," he filed a suit, receiving the support of numerous civil rights organizations. Tonatiuh masterfully combines text and folk-inspired art to add an important piece to the mosaic of U.S. civil rights history. The universality of parents' desires for better opportunities for their children is made plain. The extensive author's note provides context, and readers can connect with the real people in the story through photographs of Sylvia, her parents and the schools in question. Helpful backmatter includes a glossary, bibliography and index. Even the sourcing of dialogue is explained.A compelling story told with impeccable care. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from May 1, 2014

    Gr 2-5-When the Mendezes moved to Westminster, CA, in 1944, third-grader Sylvia tried to enter Westminster School. However, the family was repeatedly told, "'Your children have to go to the Mexican school.' 'But why?' asked Mr. Mendez......'That is how it is done.'" In response, they formed the Parents' Association of Mexican-American Children, distributed petitions, and eventually filed a successful lawsuit that was supported by organizations ranging from the Japanese American Citizens League to the American Jewish Congress. 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. Back matter includes a detailed author's note and photographs. The excellent bibliography cites primary sources, including court transcripts and the author's interview with Sylvia Mendez, who did attend Westminster School and grew up to earn the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tonatiuh's illustrations tell a modern story with figures reminiscent of the pictorial writing of the Mixtec, an indigenous people from Mexico. Here, the author deliberately connects his heritage with the prejudices of mid-20th century America. One jarring illustration of three brown children barred from a pool filled with lighter-skinned children behind a sign that reads, "No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed," will remind readers of photographs from the Jim Crow South. Compare and contrast young Sylvia Mendez's experience with Robert Coles's The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) to broaden a discussion of school desegregation.-Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2014
    Grades 2-5 Pura Belpr' Awardwinning Tonatiuh (Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, 2013) makes excellent use of picture-book storytelling to bring attention to the 1947 California ruling against public-school segregation. The concise, informative text, with occasional and always translated Spanish lines, discusses how being banned from enrolling in an Orange County grade school because of her skin tone and Mexican surname inspired Sylvia Mendez' family to fight for integrated schools. Soon they were joined by many others, including the NAACP and the Japanese American Citizens League, which led to their hard-won victory. Tonatiuh's multimedia artwork showcases period detail, such as the children's clothing and the differences between the school facilities, in his unique folk art style. An endnote essay recapping the events, photos of Sylvia and her schools, and a glossary and resource list for further research complete this thorough exploration of an event that is rarely taught. This would be a useful complement to other books about the fight for desegregation, such as Deborah Wiles' Freedom Summer (2001) or Andrea Davis Pinkney's Sit-In (2010).(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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Separate Is Never Equal
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Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
Duncan Tonatiuh
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