Review of Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    40 pp.
5/14    978-1-4197-1054-4    $18.95
Seven years before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her family fought for — and won — the desegregation of schools in California. Tonatiuh, a Belpré-winning illustrator, uses a child’s viewpoint to clearly and succinctly capture the segregated reality of Mexican Americans and the little-known legal challenge that integrated schools. When the Mendez family moves from Santa Ana to Westminster only to find that their children must attend the inferior “Mexican” school for no particular reason, they first try petitions before turning to lawyers to set matters right. 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. Author’s note, photographs, glossary, bibliography, and index
are appended.
From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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