Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

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Annotation: Years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in the landmark 1946 California desegregation case, Mendez v. Westminster.
Genre: Education
Catalog Number: #92358
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition Date: 2014
Pages: 40 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-419-71054-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-84780-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-419-71054-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-84780-4
Dewey: 379.2
LCCN: 2013032089
Dimensions: 29 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
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).
Horn Book
In 1947 the Mendez family fought for--and won--the desegregation of schools in California. Tonatiuh uses a child's viewpoint to succinctly capture the segregated reality of Mexican Americans. The straightforward narrative is well matched with illustrations in Tonatiuh's signature style, their two-dimensional perspective reminiscent of the Mixtec codex but collaged with paper, wood, etc. to provide textural variation. An author's note with photos is appended. Bib., glos., ind.
Publishers Weekly
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)-

School Library Journal Starred Review
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&30;&30;'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.&12; Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (page 39) and index.
Word Count: 2,321
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 1-4
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 164558 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.6 / points:2.0 / quiz:Q63114
Lexile: AD870L

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the Mendez family fought to end segregation in California schools. Discover their incredible story in this picture book from award-winning creator Duncan Tonatiuh A Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and Robert F. Sibert Honor Book! When her family moved to the town of Westminster, California, young Sylvia Mendez was excited about enrolling in her neighborhood school. But she and her brothers were turned away and told they had to attend the Mexican school instead. Sylvia could not understand why--she was an American citizen who spoke perfect English. Why were the children of Mexican families forced to attend a separate school? Unable to get a satisfactory answer from the school board, the Mendez family decided to take matters into its own hands and organize a lawsuit. In the end, the Mendez family's efforts helped bring an end to segregated schooling in California in 1947, seven years before the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education ended segregation in schools across America. Using his signature illustration style and incorporating his interviews with Sylvia Mendez, as well as information from court files and news accounts, award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the inspiring story of the Mendez family's fight for justice and equality.

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