Separate is Never Equal
Author- Illustrator Study. Have students identify the one illustration in the book does not have a strong and clear horizontal line running through the background. Why would this picture, in which the Mendez family arrives in Westminster, be different? Why does Tonatiuh work with diagonal lines instead? Have students discuss the profile illustrations and the use of color in the text, and use this discussion as a springboard into exploring the rest of his work. What motifs appear across his body of work and how do they operate within each text?
Separate is Never Equal for Anyone. After reading aloud Separate is Never Equal, have your students read Winifred Conkling’s Sylvia and Aki, a historical novel told from the alternating perspectives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu. As Japanese-Americans, Aki and her family were moved by the U.S. government to an internment camp; Sylvia’s family rented their farm. Have your students explore in conversation, writing, and art, how this expanded understanding of Sylvia’s life shapes and informs the significance of Mendez vs. Westminster, and their understanding of civil rights at this point in American history, as World War II is being waged.
Conkling, W. (2011). Sylvia and Aki. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.
About Mary Ann Cappiello
Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.
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