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


“At  that time, not only were schools segregated but also other publicplaces as  well, such as pools, parks, and movie theaters.  Some businesses even had  signs that read, NO DOGS OR MEXICANS ALLOWED.”Sylvia  Mendez was not Mexican; she was American, and she spoke perfect English.  Yet, because of her heritage, she could not attend her neighborhoodschool.  Instead, she was required to attend the “Mexican” school across town:“The  building was a clapboard shack, and the halls were not spacious orclean.  A cow pasture surrounded the school. The students had to eat theirlunch  outside, and flies would land on their food.  There was an electric wire that surrounded the pasture to keep the cows in.  If you touched it, you received a shock!  The school did not have a playground--not even a swing.”One  thing I find exciting about the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family’s  successful fight for equality is spelled out for readers by author/illustrator  Duncan Tonatiuh in the Author’s Note:“Two  people who played key roles in the Brown  case had also been involvedin the Mendez  case: Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren.  As a member of the National  Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Marshall had sent  friend-of-the-court briefs to the judge in the Mendez case.  In these letters he argued against segregation.  He later used several of the same arguments when he became the lawyer in the Brown case.  Earl Warren was the governor who signed into law the desegregation of  schools in California after the Mendez victory.  He later became the chief  justice of the U.S.Supreme Court.  He presided over the Brown  case and ruled in Brown’s favor.”SEGREGATION  IS NEVER EQUAL illuminates an important episode in both California and U.S.  history.  It is an outstanding picture book for older readers that fills a  significant child-lit gap in the timeline that runs from the Plessy  v. Ferguson case  through the Brown  v. Board of Education  case.The  illustrations are distinguished and distinctive.  The characters are depicted in a flattened style reminiscent of folk murals, yet they provide a strong sense of action and emotion. Here  in California, where the state’s school children have the opportunity to vote for  California Young Reader Medal contenders, I’m enthusiastically recommending this  one for consideration in the Picture Books for Older Readers  category.

40 pages  978-1-4197-1054-4  Ages 7-11

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, Librarian, California USA

See more of his recommendations:http://richiespicks.pbworks.com_

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