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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

With a title like Separate Is Never Equal, it makes sense to assume this book is about segregation and the Civil Rights movement, and it is -- but it takes place several years before the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. This story is about Sylvia Mendez and her family's fight to desegregate schools in their region of California. At the time this story takes place, Hispanic children were sent to separate schools than white children in some places.

The general story is framed by the story of Sylvia Mendez's first day at her new (formerly "white") school. She is nervous, and one child tells her to go back to the Mexican school. When she comes home and tells her mother about it, her mother reminds her why they fought -- which takes us back to the story of the Mendezes' battle to allow their children to go to the school nearest their home -- not to the "Mexican school" which was not equal in funding or quality.

Despite the fact that Sylvia Mendez spoke perfect English and was American by citizenship, not Mexican, she was told that attending a separate school was simply "how it was done." No one gave them a reasonable answer to their questions of "Why?" But it eventually came out in the court case, quite clearly -- the school administrators simply believed that white students were superior to Hispanic ones.

It's a very interesting story, and it communicates the timeline and scope of events in a way that children can understand. The framing of the story helps to give a context to all of the legal processes -- in the end, Sylvia is able to attend her new school with a sense of pride because she knows that she and her family fought hard for that right. It's not surprising that her case received support from the NAACP, among other organizations, because this case helped open the door for national desegregation of schools. And I'd never heard of it or Sylvia Mendez before now -- I'm grateful to author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh for making it accessible in this way.

At the end of the book are some more detailed notes about the events in the story and some photos, as well as a glossary and bibliography.

Scrounged From: Amazon (Kindle)

Format: Kindle
Author/illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh
Pages: 40
Content Advisory: The court case involves expressions of racist views of Hispanic people.

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