Todos Iguales/All Equal

By Kirkus Reviews

Twenty-three years before Brown v. Board of Education, the first successful desegregation case in the United States, Roberto Álvarez v. the Board of Trustees of the Lemon Grove School District, was decided in California in 1931. In 1930, Lemon Grove school board members secretly decided to provide a segregated education to U.S. citizens of Mexican descent who had, up to that time, enjoyed equal education with the "Anglo" children. Hale's bilingual text, Spanish printed above English, accompanies her illustrations and describes how the school's white principal disobeyed the board's orders and alerted the families. The Latino community boycotted the inferior school and sought legal recourse with the help of the Mexican consul. The board members argued that a separate education was necessary in order "to give special attention to students who spoke poor English and had other ‘deficiencies.' " The plaintiff, 12-year-old Roberto Álvarez, responded to the white judge's questions in perfect English—and the judge ruled in favor of the 75 Mexican American students. Hale bases much of her account of this important but little-known case on primary sources and interviews with many of the principal participants. An essential springboard for further meaningful discussion of this relevant and divisive topic.