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Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Familys Fight for Desegregation (Jane Addams Award Book (Awards)) Hardcover – May 6, 2014
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From School Library Journal
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
Pura Belpré Award–winning 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). Grades 2-5. --Francisca Goldsmith
Top customer reviews
who fought for desegregation! It is part of our history, told with the honesty of the writer
who portrays the emotions and reality of its characters. It is enhanced through
beautiful illustrations..,that make this story compelling-- both for young readers as well as adults.
It allows us to look into the window in the life of a Mexican family and of their determination to bring
us the singular opportunity to enjoy the equality of human rights, within the context
of our singular culture. I highly recommend you have a copy of this book in your library!
Due to the important subject matter and the accessible language used by the author, I could see this book being used for grades K-12 for sure.