Separate Is Never Equal

Separate Is Never Equal

Sylvia Mendez & and 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 Equal
" 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, 2014.
ISBN: 9781419710544
Branch Call Number: J 379.263 Ton
Characteristics: 40 pages : illustrations (chiefly colour)


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JuliaO_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.

Jan 15, 2017

Inspirational, character-driven biography of an important family in American history.

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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Apr 07, 2016

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


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