Although written and illustrated for upper elementary school, even adults will learn a lot about the Mendez v. Westminster desegregation case in California that preceded Brown v. Board. Author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the story of how Mexican-born Gonzalo Mendez and Puerto Rican Felicitas Mendez challenged the separate and unequal school system in California. They moved to Westminster during WWII and their children were sent to a run-down school for Mexican American children. The book highlights the role of Mendez as an organizer—galvanizing other parents and legal support to pursue an equal education for all children. The illustrations are in Tonatiuh’s distinctive, folkloric style.
— Rethinking Schools
A 2015 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book 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. Praise for "Separate is Never Equal" STARRED REVIEWS """Tonatiuh masterfully combines text and folk-inspired art to add an important piece to the mosaic of U.S. civil rights history." --"Kirkus Reviews," starred review Younger children will be outraged by the injustice of the Mendez family story but pleased by its successful resolution. Older children will understand the importance of the 1947 ruling that desegregated California schools, paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education seven years later. --"School Library Journal," starred review "Tonatiuh ("Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote") offers an illuminating account of a family's hard-fought legal battle to desegregate California schools in the years before "Brown" v. "Board of Education."" --"Publishers Weekly" "Pura Belpre Award winning Tonatiuh makes excellent use of picture-book storytelling to bring attention to the 1947 California ruling against public-school segregation." --"Booklist" "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." --"The Horn Book Magazine"
About the Author
Duncan Tonatiuh s first book, Dear Primo, won the 2011 Pura Belpre Honor for Illustration, and Diego Rivera won the 2012 Pura Belpre Illustration Award. Tonatiuh lives in Mexico.