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Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido De Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove

Book review by
Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Media
Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido De Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove Book Poster Image
Powerful true story of immigrants' victory for equal rights.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches about an important time in United States history, sheds light on a pivotal but little-known case of desegregation, details an immigrant community's fight for equal rights and its major victory against school segregation. Informative visual details about immigrant families working in agricultural fields. 

Positive Messages

Strong messages about fighting for equality, overcoming obstacles, working together, and standing up for your rights.

Positive Role Models & Representations

informative representations of immigrant life in southwestern California. Highlights strong leadership, including that of a community, and Mexican-American culture. Roberto, a bright boy who spoke English well, represents the community and becomes the plaintiff in a suit filed by the Mexican families. The judge rules in favor of the children's right to equal education, not afraid to defy the pro-segregation forces in the community. 

Violence & Scariness

 

Language

 

What parents need to know

Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido De Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove is a nonfiction bilingual picture book, written in both English and Spanish, that tells the important but little-known story of Lemon Grove and the first successful school desegregation case. Twenty-three years before the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the first successful desegregation case in the United States, Roberto Alvarez v. the Board of Trustees of the Lemon Grove School District, was decided in California in 1931. This book tells the incredibly poignant story and sheds light on this major victory in the battle against school segregation. It serves as a testament to the tenacity of an immigrant community and its fight for equal rights. Included in the back matter are notes and a detailed backstory that help readers understand the complex situation the immigrants faced.

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What's the story?

TODOS IGUALES / ALL EQUAL: UN CORRIDO DE LEMON GROVE / A BALLAD OF LEMON GROVE is an important story that sheds light on a little-known landmark school desegregation case -- the first successful one in the United States. Ten-year-old Roberto Alvarez loved school. He, his siblings, and neighbors attended the Lemon Grove School along with the white children from nearby homes. The children studied and played together as equals. In the summer of 1930, the Lemon Grove School Board decided to segregate the Mexican American students. The board claimed these children had a "language handicap" and needed to be "Americanized." When the Mexican families learned of this plan, they refused to let their children enter the new, inferior school that had been erected closer to home. Instead, they formed a neighborhood committee and sought legal help. Roberto, a bright boy who spoke English well, was chosen to represent the community and became the plaintiff in a suit filed by the Mexican families. On March 12, 1931, the case of Roberto Alvarez v. the Board of Trustees of the Lemon Grove School District was decided. The judge ruled in favor of the children's right to equal education, ordering that Roberto and all the other Mexican American students be immediately reinstated in the Lemon Grove School. 

Is it any good?

This powerful, poignant, and informative true story focuses on segregation in the 1930s and a community of immigrants' hard-won fight for equal education. Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove can add to the current national discussion on immigration and the challenges faced not only by immigrants not only today but also decades ago. Hale's bilingual narrative, told separately in Spanish and English on each page, makes this an ideal text for readers of either language. The story itself is inspirational, and the historical and cultural detail make this an excellent book choice for learning about justice and equality, past and present. Hale's bright and dreamy illustrations also beautifully add to the narrative. For example, each character in the book is given a unique face that sets each of the main characters apart as individuals.

This picture book begins with a nine-verse ballad, or corrido,written by Hale. It tells the story of the Lemon Grove Incident and gives readers some background before they even begin reading the story. Notes at the back of the book explains "Los corridos," a bit of history, their use, and poetic structure. A history of Mexican Americans in the Lemon Grove area, along with a list of who's who in the court case, the results of the ruling, and an additional page of source notes about what happened after the ruling -- including other pivotal court rulings -- also appear at the back, along with a detailed list of sources. Here Hale also notes that illustrations for this book were inspired by vintage California citrus labels -- colorful, eye-catching labels attached to the ends of lemon crates that identified the brand, region, and product. Overall, Todos Iguales / All Equal is an informative nonfiction picture book that can serve as a great springboard for meaningful discussions about the immigrant experience, segregation, and the right to equal education.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what life is like for children of immigrants who live in the United States. What are some of the challenges that immigrant children encountered in Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove / A Ballad of Lemon Grove? What are some challenges immigrant children face today?

  • Can you relate to this story? Do you have friends at school that look similar or different from you?

  • What did you know about school segregation before you read this book? What did you learn that you hadn't known? 

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