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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  3,451 Ratings  ·  962 Reviews
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Méndez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Méndez 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 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
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
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.

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
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
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 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
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
Shelves: 1st-grade, latinx-lit
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!
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
Jun 12, 2014 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
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 ta
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 lov
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
Bridget F
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diverse
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, published in 2014, is a powerful story about the fight to end segregation of Mexican-Americans in California. Duncan Tonatiuh is a Mexican-American author and illustrator of several award-winning children’s books. I found this book in the awards section of my library. This book is a Robert F. Sibert Honor book and a Pura Belpre honor book.

On her first day of school, Sylvia is told that she should
Jessica Meyers
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diverse
I discovered this inspiring children's book from the Tomás Rivera Book Award Winners site. I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

When Mr. Mendez was told "Your children have to go to the Mexican School" again and again, he could not understand why. The Mexican school was a shack and the halls "were not spacious or clean." The school did not have a playground. Sylvia Mendez and her parents are determined to end school segregation in California. The Mendez family refused to give up, despite the m
Caitlin E
Oct 01, 2015 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
An essential addition to any classroom library and a collection of civil rights books, this picture book tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family's legal battle for quality education. When Sylvia and her siblings were denied entrance to the neighborhood school and sent to one for Mexicans, Sylvia found it impossible to understand why she couldn't attend the closer school. Eventually, her parents filed a lawsuit against the local school board in California. The court's decision in 1954 pre ...more
Carly Mills
"Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation" by Duncan Tonatiuh is the true story of the Mendez family and the rights they had to fight for to get Sylvia and her brothers into a good school next to their home in California. This is a great story to read to younger students to make them think about the way that they may treat their peers, and that there is a purpose for why all of the students are in school together - that it wasn't always the way that it is n ...more
Adam Jasion
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh is the eye-opening story of Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation over 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education. As a history buff and advocate for social equality, I love to discover little-known stories of American history where the people fight and win their equality. Tonatiuh tells her story eloquently yet simple enough for a young child to understand. Tonitiuh's illustrations, while also rather simple, compliment Mendez's story ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, elm-572
I found this book to be a wonderful biography to bring into a classroom. This book is inspiring and engaging. This book is a highly informational text and is a great way to inform students about issues in history. I believe this book would be great for first, second, or third grade, but could also be discussed in higher levels as well. This book captures the essence of Sylvia Mendez struggle and how her father fought for her family. This book shows children that they are all much more a like tha ...more
Jen Ciampi
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Separate is Never Equal is an excellent book to use along with Social Studies in a third grade classroom. The book tells the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her family's fight for equality in California. Sylvia and her family were Mexican and Puerto Rican but although she spoke perfect English, she was denied acceptance into an all white school. This incident along with discrimination in their community (as well as the country at the time) prompted Sylvia's family to fight back and file a lawsui ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation is an amazing informational/biographical book based on true events. This book explains the long fight that took place before the famous case: Brown vs Board of Education.
Sylvia Mendez and her family, who were Mexican American and Puerto Rican, had moved into a new farm in California that her father was able to buy cheap. When her mother took Sylvia, her siblings and cousins to register for school, Sylvia and her sib
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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
More about Duncan Tonatiuh

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