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Silvia Mendez

24 Jun

I had never heard of Silvia Mendez until I read Duncan Tonatiuh’s latest picture book Separate is Never Equal.

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The illustrations are classic Tonatiuh, but the text tells a very important story about the struggle in California in the late 1940’s , for integrated schools. And it focuses on the story of Silvia Mendez, whose family was at the center of the Mendez v. Winchester  decision, granting equal access to school for kids of Hispanic heritage. We all know about  Brown v. Board of Education, but we should all know about this story, too, since  it precedes that case and Thurgood Marshal and Earl Warren also play roles.

When Silvia and her siblings were told they couldn’t enroll at the nearby school, but had to attend the “Mexican school”, her parents took action. yes they enrolled the kids at the “Mexican school”, but they also started a campaign. they talked to other families and finally decided to file a lawsuit. They won locally and they won the appeal by the school board.

What I really like about this story is how Tonatiuh really ties it in to Silvia, how she felt and what this decision meant for her. I think Duncan Tonatiuh will be in the running for another Belpre award with this book.

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