Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation” as Want to Read:
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  5,259 ratings  ·  1,318 reviews
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 dist ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,259 ratings  ·  1,318 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If I blame my childhood education for anything I suppose it would be for instilling in me the belief that the history worth learning consisted of a set of universally understood facts. One event would be more worthy of coverage than another. One person better positioned for a biography than another. It was only in adulthood that I started to understand that the history we know is more a set of decisions made decades and decades ago by educators than anything else. Why were weeks and weeks of my ...more
Mariah Roze
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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."

This book is made for
Here I thought I knew a great deal about the Civil Rights Movement in this country. I guess I was wrong. I don't have a problem with being wrong, for this was a gem of a book that needed to be read and should be added to any lesson about segregation in the U.S.

This is the story of Sylvia Mendez. Daughter of a migrant worker in California. Sylvia's dad, Gonzalo, was a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent and her mother, Felícitas, was Puerto Rican. When they moved to their own farm, their parents sen
Deacon Tom F
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding Book

What a wonderful story. A true story as well!

It tells about the pains and struggles of the Mendez family and the cruelty of their small town in California.

Another strength is that it is viewed the the eyes of the children.

Overall, a great story that all should read. I recommend.
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was both fascinating and sobering to read. Public school education leaves a lot to be desired, even now. So to learn about one family's (and the Latinx community's) fight to desegregate schools YEARS before Brown vs Board of Education makes me proud, yet more determined to call out discrimination and systemic racism.

The author's note with the pictures of Sylvia and the schools is very unforgettable. I am glad kids and young adults now have media that shows forgotten/whitewashed moments in
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Explore an early battle for desegregation of the California public schools in this picture book. In a court battle that took place seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her family fought the system. Having been placed in a Mexican school rather than a “whites only” one due to her Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, Sylvia and her family realized that she was being given a second-class education because the facilities and teachers were much better in the white school. A ...more
Rachel Nicole Wagner

This book is so incredibly amazing. It discusses issues of inequality and racism in a way that both children and adults can understand and identify with. Every child of every race should read this story. Wow. Just amazing. I will definitely be reading this story to my children someday.

Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Historically, Hispanic children were segregated from Anglo children in many public school districts in the southwestern states. The legal struggle in the courts to rectify that segregation took several interesting turns as it (1) influenced and (2) was influenced by the litigation efforts by blacks to end racial segregation in the public schools.

A landmark case in the struggle for equality was Westminster School Dist. of Orange County et al. v. Mendez et al. (161 F.2d 774, 9th Circuit), decided
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring picture book describing the fight Sylvia Mendez and her family had to put up in order for Sylvia and her brothers to have access to a good education. The book touches on race and economic disparities, and the struggle that people of color face when they have friends or family members who are "white passing." I had never heard the Mendez's story before but it's one I highly recommend. We hear most often about Ruby Bridges when we think of segregated schools, but we shouldn't forget t ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diverse-texts
Geared towards upper elementary school students (because of the subject of the book), Separate is Never Equal chronicles the Mendez's family and their fight for desegregation. Sylvia Mendez, a soon to be third grader and her family moved to Westminster, California in search of a better life after her father had the opportunity to be his own boss (lease his own farm). The children were very excited to attend the neighborhood school until they visited the school to enroll and they were denied enro ...more
Samuel Graham
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This informational picture book tells the story of one family’s fight against segregation in California schools in the mid-1940’s. The story is told through the viewpoint of 3rd grader Sylvia, whose mother is Puerto Rican and father is Mexican American. When told that his children must attend the “Mexican school” that is farther away and in poorer conditions despite the fact that they speak English as well as the white children, Sylvia’s father take up a fight for civil rights and organizes othe ...more
Note: This is one of SLJ Best Books of 2014! Well, I am fairly certain I just read the next Pura Belpre winner. OK, so I'm wrongbut it was a Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Awards. The text was excellent. I wasn't really a fan of the illustrations. I'm rather hoping it might win one of the big awards as well since Tonatiuh deserves wider fame just like Morales does. This is about a famous case in my backyard: Orange County. The Mendez family moved there once they were able to buy and work their ow ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Tonatiuh writes and illustrates another winner in this account of the Mendez family's fight to desegregate schools in California, eventually leading to the landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v. The Board of Education. Segregation is just another form of prejudice that I will never understand. In California it was the children of Mexican immigrants who were forced to go to inferior schools that in some cases were far from where they lived. An author's note at the end of the book provides further ...more
This is an important picture book on a ground breaking case I wasn't aware of Mendez vs. Westminster, probably because it was a California case and affected only that state. My older students in elementary and middle school have been really interested in reading this book and have taken it to read several times. An important case which led to the federal case of Brown vs. BOE several years later. ...more
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Considering the unfortunate but true fact that a person can be part of a minority group and still be very intolerant toward a member or members of another group, I've made it a personal goal to learn more about others.
Reading this book was part of that effort and I am so glad I did.
I hope you will read it too.
Apr 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Books About the Struggle to Desegregate American Schools
When Sylvia Mendez and her family moved from Santa Ana, California to nearby Westminster in 1944, they discovered that the local educational authorities would not allow Sylvia and her brothers to attend the town's well-funded school, instead insisting that they go to the far inferior "Mexican School." After failing to convince the authorities that his children should attend the public school near where they lived, Sylvia's father, Gonzalo Mendez, began to organize a petition against segregation ...more
Stephanie H
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is about a young girl named Sylvia Mendez and her family. Sylvia and her family moved to California, and tried enrolling the children into school where they were denied because they were Mexican. They were told that they had to attend a Mexican School. Sylvia's father was not okay with this so he fought for the rights of his children, but also other children. Mr. Mendez ended up taking this case to court where it was decided that this segregation needed to end. Thanks to Mr. Mendez's c ...more
Laura (Book Scrounger)
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book that looks at an important court case with language that an early-elementary-aged child can understand, and also frames the story with a young girl who learns to be proud of the rights her family has fought for. Full review:
Very important book about segregation in schools. I did not know this story before. A Bluestem nominee for 2018!
Kayla Leitschuh
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Duncan Tonatiuh illustrations perfectly compliment this story about the Mendez v. Westminster School District trial in which school integration was won in California. I had no prior knowledge of this case that predates Brown v. Board of Education by 7 years! An excellent read.
This is a good tool to help your children understand the racial divide that has happened and has been happening in our country.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This informational picture book text chronicles the Mendez v. Westminster School District case in the fight for desegregated schools in California. It shares the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family's fight to desegregate schools. The journey started when Sylvia's family tried to enroll her and her brothers in their neighborhood school and they were turned away and told that they would have to attend the "Mexican school". This lead her family to file a lawsuit against the school district and go ...more
Valerie Barnhart
1. Text to Text connection: The text to text connection for this story is the book Under the Mesquite Tree. With both of these stories the rights of the Mexican people is not equal and fair treatment as other cultures. I would also compare it to Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street. The children in their innocent explanation of the world as they see it recognize the lying and inequality of their culture. Their world as they see it is filled with inequalities. Some people can live in fancy home ...more
Richie Partington
Richie’s Picks: SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: SYLVIA MENDEZ & HER FAMILY’S FIGHT FOR DESEGREGATION by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, May 2014, 40p., ISBN: 978-1-4197-1054-4

“At that time, not only were schools segregated but also other public places 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 neigh
Baby Bookworm
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: our-reviews

This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily!

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight For Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, the true story of the Mendez family’s fight to desegregate California public schools.

When Sylvia’s father uses his life savings to move his family to a new town, he is thrilled with the promise of his children getting a good education. But when Sylvia’s aunt takes
Abby Shoe
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight For Segregation is a biography about the struggles that a Hispanic family (and many others) endured to make sure that their children got the best education possible! The Mendez family, an American family of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, were residents of a predominately white neighborhood, meaning that their daughter would likely attend the neighborhood school that happened to be "whites only". However, her admission to
TWIN TEXT: WHITE SOCKS ONLY: Coleman, E. (November 25, 2014). White Socks Only. Albert Whitman & Company.
RATIONALE: I chose this non-fiction book, Separate Is Never Equal, " because I am currently going into the education field to become a teacher. The history of our education in the United States intrigues me and what makes me even more interested is the way we as Americans treated people and the way some Americans still do treat people. I loved t
Vanessa Macias
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Separate is Never Equal” is a book set in the United States about a Hispanic family (all US citizens) who were not allowed to attend a white school. This book is a factual book about the first fight for the desegregation of the public schools. The author of this book was born in Mexico City and fully understands the culture of the people he writes about. He won the Pura Belpré award for his illustrations in previous books. He wrote the story in a factual and sequential manner, also including th ...more
Kelly Petersen
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation is about just that! Most stories I've read about segregation have to do with Ruby Brown and the segregation in the South between blacks and whites. This is a story about the segregation between the Latino population of America and white Americans. The illustrations were beautiful and the story of the Mendez family. It was so frustrating that in their own county and school district they couldn't find anyone to help th ...more
Ben Truong
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Méndez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. It is a biographical picture book of Sylvia Méndez – an activist.

Mid-September to Mid-October, at least in my part of the world is Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, which I plan to read one children's book, particularly a biography, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be apropos for today.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Separate Is Never Equal, by Duncan Tonatiuh 1 6 Apr 13, 2019 02:15PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
  • Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
  • Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X
  • Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • The Whispering Town
  • New Shoes
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice
  • Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
  • Let's Talk about Race
  • Let the Children March
  • We Are Water Protectors
  • Trombone Shorty
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
  • The Day You Begin
  • Dreamers
  • Viva Frida
See similar books…
I was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I received my BFA from Parsons School of Design and my BA from Eugene Lang College, both of them divisions of the New School University in New York City.

My first picture book "Dear Primo, a letter to my cousin" is published by H N Abrams and will be in stores March 1st, 2010.

My illustrations of the AH1N1 in Mexico were selecte

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
42 likes · 13 comments