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

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  2,060 Ratings  ·  539 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
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Jul 14, 2014 Betsy 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
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
Apr 30, 2014 Tasha 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
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
Caitlin E
Oct 10, 2015 Caitlin E rated it really liked it
This is one of my multicultural picture books.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh is an informational picture book chronicling a Mexican-American family's decision to pursue integration in the public schools in California in 1945. Sylvia Mendez narrates the book as she encounters resistance in her new, integrated school. Her mother tells the story of the legal battles that got them there.

I learned quite a bit of history reading thi
Jan 26, 2016 Kim 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
Apr 23, 2016 Jill 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
Savanna Blevins
Dec 04, 2016 Savanna Blevins rated it really liked it
Shelves: informational
This children's book taught me something as an adult. I was never taught as a child or even through high school about this segregation of Mexican-Americans. It is a great book for children to know of and to read. It is important to talk about diversity and this book is great for covering that topic with younger children.
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
Jun 12, 2014 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
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 n
Abby Shoe
Apr 19, 2016 Abby Shoe 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 lov
Vanessa Macias
Jun 13, 2016 Vanessa Macias 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
Sep 19, 2016 Karyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-books
Love this book!! Such a beautiful story which is told in gorgeous illustrations!
Oct 02, 2015 Kellean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rll-538
Ten years before Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling, a family in California sought to integrate their school. In 1947, Sylvia Mendez came home from her first day at Westminster school, but didn’t want to go back because the kids were mean to her. When she tells her mother this, her mother reminds her that this is what they fought for. And so the story goes back to 1943 when the Mendez family first moved to Westminster, California when she and her brother were forced to go to Hoover school, ...more
Ashlee Christians
After reading this story, I made a text-to-world connection about the controversial issue of immigration into the United States today. I was reminded of the trouble and persecutions MExican-Americans go through today when they are trying and fighting for citizenship to the United States.

I think this book has culturally specific aspects related to Mexican culture, but is over-all is a historical story. The language throughout the story contains some Spanish which is the language of Mexico and th
Samuel Graham
Mar 14, 2016 Samuel Graham 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
Oct 03, 2015 Andrea added it
Shelves: rll-538
I was drawn to this book because of the distinct illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh after reading his first picture book, Dear Primo, A Letter to my Cousin. Separate is Never Equal tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family’s struggle to overcome segregation of schools in California in 1940s. The Mendez family formed a group called the Parents’ Association of Mexican-American Children in order to fight for fair and equal education for their children. They brought forth a lawsuit that helped i ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Christina rated it really liked it
A Mexican-American family fights the school board to be allowed to send their children to the good 'white' school in their California town instead of the poor 'Mexicans only' school. The cartoony color illustrations look a little like collages--they are digitally colored in, using photos of hair and leather for shoes, etc so that parts of them appear textured, and they are so stylized as to be reminiscent of Mexican, Mayan or maybe Aztec murals. (At least it seemed to me with my limited art hist ...more
Jun 07, 2015 Catherine rated it really liked it
Separate is Never Equal is a Robert Sibert Honor Book and a Pura Belpre Award recipient. Based on events of Mendez vs. Westminster School District lawsuit, the book describes a Hispanic family and their journey to provide their children with an equal opportunity education. The Mendez children were forced by the state to enroll the Mexican school, because their appearance and the parents primary language — despite being born in California and being American by all qualifying standards. Believing ...more
Oct 02, 2015 Eva rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll-538
This is an excellent book to enhance a discussion about desegregation of schools. Sylvia Mendez, a third grader, tried to attend Westminster School in California. However, she was banned from the school because of her Mexican heritage. Fortunately, in 1947, seven years before Brown vs. Board of Education a law was enacted that allowed all children in California to attend "school together, regardless of race, ethnicity, or language." This book provides factual information regarding the Mendez cas ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book is a good read to share with students in grades 1-4. This story touches on real-life situations that go along with Sylvia Mendez and her family and their fight to have their children go to the local school in California. This story discusses how Sylvia and her brothers have to go to a "Mexican School" instead of the public school because they are different based off of the color of their skin and because of the "ethnic" last name that they have which is "Mendez". This book goes into th ...more
Tricia Douglas
This book will be getting some awards I predict. I guess I was impressed with it even more because the history behind the Mendez desegregation conflict took place in my early elementary school days. I even remember comments made when Hispanic children began showing up in my school. I didn't understand those comments at the time and wondered why everyone was making such a fuss. One of my best friends, Rosemary Diaz, I remember to this day. This book tells the story of how the Mendez family brough ...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
Apr 03, 2015 Dana rated it really liked it
This is an excellent historical fiction story about the Mendez v. Westminster case - a fight for school desegregation in 1947 in California where Mexicans were forced to attend segregated schools. This is a desegregation story that is not well known and the book does a great job of telling the story for elementary and middle school age children. It is well written and informative and includes an author's note giving more information, photographs, a glossary and other helpful reference material a ...more
Rina Lopez
Apr 30, 2016 Rina Lopez rated it really liked it
Separate is Never Equal it is a book for children in the ages of 6- 9 years. This is a story that tell the reality that some Hispanic family are deal in California in 1947. This realistic fiction tells how the Mendez family are struggles against the school system. Also, the authors used real fact to show to the reading how his family deal with that situation, which make the story realistic and informatics. However, that illustration was too dark, and it was a little depress for me to identify my ...more
A big thanks to all the children's and young adult nonfiction authors who find topics I need to learn about! How have I never heard about Sylvia Mendez and her family in an education class somewhere? Although this is a short account written for children, the important facts are all there.

I'm not a huge fan of the illustrations, though. The people's faces just seem very strange to me. I think Duncan Tonatiuh is trying to make a point - that people are all essentially the same, just with differen
Graciela Tiscareno-sato
Sep 01, 2016 Graciela Tiscareno-sato rated it it was amazing
A book ALL teachers should ensure ALL elementary school children read, to understand that the right to attend school with children very different from yourself, is a right that many FOUGHT hard to achieve. Equally as important is to finally inform American citizens that the case of Brown vs. Board of Education was NOT the first segregation case. The Mendez family and community went first! Duncan did a fantastic job illustrating this book in his very unique style. My nine year-old son LOVES it an ...more
Alyssa Stanley
Multicultural Book- Picture Book

This is a book that should be in every school. I suggest this book for students from 3rd grade to 6th grade. The book follows Sylvia Mendez and her family who sued the Westminster Schools in a desegregation case that took place from 1946 to 1947. They won the case and the schools in California were desegregated. The book is very straight forward and sometimes seems harsh. However, it is important for students to know that this is how it was back then and how far s
Mar 09, 2016 Keirabauer rated it it was amazing
An exquisite book about Sylvia, a little girl who, along with her brothers, we're not allowed to enroll in their neighborhood school due to their skin color and were sent to the "Mexican" school instead. The facilities were substandard, and Sylvia's family fought in court to gain the right of all students to attend the public school.
The illustrations are cute--not exactly museum quality, but they help tell the story of Sylvia and her family. The use of photographs of real hair on the heads of th
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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
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