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

Image result for separate but not equal sylvia mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation

Author and Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiah

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Date of Publication: May 6th, 2014

Awards: 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor, 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor, Jane Addams Award

Age Range: 6 – 9 years

Grade Level: 1 – 4


  1. Literature Guide with pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities
  2. Read aloud lesson plan using elements of Bloom’s taxomony
  3. Book review using a Latino lens

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation tells the true story of young Sylvia Mendez and her family’s move to Westminster, California and being denied enrollment at the neighborhood school. Instead they had to attend the segregated Mexican school, even though Sylvia and her relatives were U.S. citizens and fluent in English. The Mendez family decided to takes matters into their own hands and organized a lawsuit when the school board was unable to give them a satisfactory reason for such discrimination. Duncan Tonatiuh’s classic illustration style, combined with his incorporation of personal interviews with Sylvia Mendez, court files, and news reports, all come together to tell the inspirational civil rights story of the Mendez family, an often overlooked but very important story. It is for people of all ages that do not believe in standing idly by in the face of injustice. Young children who are beginning to grapple with the unfairness of the world can find inspiration in this real world example of overcoming such a great injustice.

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