RovingFiddlehead KidLit

Separate is Never Equal

January 28, 2015

Separate is Never Equal
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh details the struggle Sylvia Mendez’ parents undertook to ensure that she and her siblings were able to attend the public school closest to their house, a school that was not only closer than the “Mexican school”, but also provided a superior education.

While the superintendent would only vaguely tell Gonzalo Mendez that his children couldn’t attend Westminster School because “that is how it is done” the court case revealed the depth of his prejudice. Without speaking to the students he assured the court that 75% of the Mexican students had poor hygiene and were academically inferior. Such blatant prejudices, particularly the claim that they all spoke poor English, were easily dispelled by student testimony.

Governor Earl Warren desegregated all California schools in 1947, opening the schoolhouse doors for not only Sylvia Mendez and Mexican children, but children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. He also laid the groundwork for 1954, when as Supreme Court Justice he would rule on behalf of African-American students in Brown vs The Board of Education. Tonatiuh’s book was an eye-opener for me. I had not realized that segregation for the children of Mexican immigrants was codified until reading Separate is Never Equal.

Strong back matter accompanies this solid title of overcoming prejudice and changing American schools.

Related Resources:
Sylvia Mendez today
Story Corps: Syvlia Mendez talks to her younger sister about the case
Voices of History video


For more nonfiction picture book suggestions, visit the roundup on KidLit Frenzy.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

January 21, 2015

Two excellent 2014 books begin this year’s nonfiction picture books reading. A historical biography and one STEM title.

Dare the Wind by Tracy Fern

Dare the Wind by Tracy Fern, ill. by Emily Arnold McCully

Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracy Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

As a young girl, Ellen Prentiss’ father taught her to “have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind.” Ellen did not put aside her navigational skills upon her marriage to sea captain Perkins Creesy. Instead they were formidable partners who sailed multiple trips to China. The lessons from her father and a willingness to use the latest information, led her to navigate the fastest clipper from New York to San Francisco in 1851 as part of the Gold Rush.

From racing fishing fleets across Massachusetts Bay to the opportunity to win a bonus and bragging rights on the trip to San Francisco, Ellen’s competitive spirit was vital. Her skills and spirit provide the basis for an inspiring biography.

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins continues his streak of well-illustrated information-rich nonfiction. While the intended audience is children, what adult doesn’t learn something from each of his books? This time the focus is on sight, its evolution and current state for a wide variety of animals. For each animal, Jenkins has a close-up illustration of its eyes and a full-body drawing. Among the fascinating tidbits:

  • bullfrogs don’t see things that aren’t moving and will starve to death with a motionless fly in front of it!
  • each tarsier eyeball is bigger than its brain
  • the mantis shrimp has the most highly developed eyes in the animal kingdom

The book also made we wonder what kind of vision enhancement might be introduced to humans through technology. Will tech like Google Glass expand to give humans a wider-range of vision or the ability to see ultraviolet light?


For more nonfiction picture book suggestions, visit the roundup on KidLit Frenzy.

Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge 2015

January 17, 2015

I’m participating in the Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge again. While they didn’t all get blogged, I easily met my goal of one per month last year. Combined with a return to some library work this year (more on that in another post), it seems natural for me to increase my goal this year to 25 nonfiction picture book reads in 2015. As with last year, I look forward to learning about gems from our host Alyson and all the other participants.

Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge

September 17, 2014

Time to catch up on sharing nonfiction picture book reading over the last few months. As usual, historical biographies and nature books dominated my choices.

Bird lovers and more will enjoy Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart. Stewart highlights the many accomplishments of bird feathers from providing shade and warmth to more obscure dissolving bristle feathers of the American bittern or the forklift behavior of the lovebird’s tail feathers. A great introduction to the tools of bird life with well-executed illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen.

feathers not just for flying

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle is the inspiring picture book biography of a slave woman who successfully challenged the writers of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Using information drawn from the autobiography of her lawyer’s (Theodore Sedgwick) daughter, Woelfle gives a glimpse into Elizabeth Freeman’s difficult life as a slave as well as her groundbreaking fight for freedom. Alix Delinois deftly illustrates the strength of Mumbet’s convictions and character with the bold strokes and vibrant colours.

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

I’ve been meaning to read Cokie Roberts’ Founding Mothers (original adult version) since it first came out in 2004. This summer, I cheated and read the children’s adaptation, a Cliff’s Notes version if you will. A decent roundup of both well-known spouses like Martha Washington and women who impacted history independent of the men in their lives such as Deborah Sampson.

founding mothers

Malcolm Little by sheds light on the childhood of Malcolm X. The strong family foundations and the role that racial hatred played in destroying his loving family.

Malcolm Little

Butterfly farming in Costa Rica is handled beautifully in Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffith Burns. By presenting an unique angle to both farming and butterflies’ stages of growth through gorgeous photographs and clear text, this book will have every child wanting to raise a butterfly. Highly recommended.

handle with care

For lots of nonfiction picture book ideas, head over to KidLit Frenzy every Wednesday for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge posts. This week’s roundup is here.


Nonfiction Picture Book March Reads

March 26, 2014

I really enjoyed and learned a lot reading Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine and illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth. The combination of comparisons and questions is an effective method of teaching children about bones. I had no idea that giraffe’s and humans have the same number of vertebrae, but I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Bone by Bone

Music lovers will be fascinated by Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band by Anne  Rockwell with illustrations by Colin Bootman. An interesting story about an inspiring leader, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins, the orphanage he created and the impact its band had on music and dance in America and Europe.

hey charleston

The Secrets of Stonehenge by Nick Manning and Brita Granstrom sheds light on both the creation of Stonehenge and life among prehistoric peoples. A nice swath of anthropology and archaeology in very readable form with charming illustrations.

Secrets of Stonehenge

For lots of nonfiction picture book ideas, head over to KidLit Frenzy every Wednesday for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge posts. This week’s roundup is here.