It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th through October 15th!) but we all know the contributions, culture, and history of the Hispanic culture will keep shining all year long! Lee & Low Books continues to help make sure stories that celebrate and honor the diversity of our world reach readers everywhere; stories they might otherwise never read or hear — stories that educate and inspire readers, stories that promote a sense of pride when they see trailblazers that resemble themselves.
Todos Iquales / All Equal is about the very first successful school desegregation case — Roberto Alvarez vs. the Board of Trustees of the Lemon Grove School District. The 1931 Lemon Grove incident was when "Mexican families in Southern California won the first school desegregation case in United States History." This bilingual picture book tells the story of Robert, a student who loved his school, and how he and other children, including his siblings, were impacted when Lemon Grove School wanted to segregate Mexican American students due to the belief that they needed to be "Americanized" and "had a language handicap."
Despite this, their parents stood up for their children refusing to allow them to enter the makeshift school that was created for them. They came together to form a committee and obtained legal help filing a lawsuit; Roberto, age 12, was selected to be the plaintiff. In the end a judge ruled in their favor — these children, like all children, had the right to an equal education.
Being a true story we know how this story ends but you'll want to read it anyway! There are tons of facts packed in its pages, pages wonderfully complimented by the detailed illustrations that were inspired by vintage citrus labels. You'll read about Mexican immigration to the US, learn more about this historical court case, and about corridos, songs that tell a story. You may feel disheartened to learn that this case didn't set a precedent for other cases but hopefully encouraged when discovering the role it did play in the arguments Thurgood Marshall used in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
And possibly, most important of all, no matter how old you are, you will be reminded of the power of your own voice and how it can be made stronger when coming together with the voices of those in your community in an effort to bring about positive change. You will be moved at what it took simply for the students to get to school each day and how their community worked together to keep them there. It was in 1931 when the school principal told the Mexican American students that they didn't "belong here." It's 2019 and these words are still being uttered, families are told that they don’t belong, not being treated with equality, and efforts to divide continue.
It is imperative that children be taught and reminded that generations have been fighting for them and will continue to fight. Our children, all of them, are worthy. And this will hopefully inspire them to do the same on their path to adulthood and beyond. Even at 12, Roberto made a valuable contribution to his community as the plaintiff in this case. Every child should know that their history is rich with leaders, world changers, and people who stood for good — that they come from greatness. Even if our school history books fall short when it comes to reflecting such, there are books that do and it's important that they are accessible in school, in libraries (little free ones too:) ), and in our homes more than ever.
Thanks Lee & Low Books for sharing the story of a brave little boy and his courageous community!
Todos Iguales/All Equal: Un corrido de Lemon Grove/A Ballad of Lemon Grove
Written + Illustrated by Christy Hale