Tonatiuh, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. 2014. 40 pages. Abrams Books for Young Readers. Tr $18.95 ISBN 9781419710544. Grades 2-5.
AWARDS: 2015 Elementary Winner (Grades K-6) of the Carter G. Woodson Book Award from the National Council of Social Studies. Also an honor book for the Robert F. Sibert Medal
Sweet, Melissa. Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade. 20 pages. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547199450. Preschool-Grade 2.
AWARDS: 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, 2012 Caldecott Honor Book.
These pictures books are similar in that they could be considered biographical, since they both tell the story of two historical people. Separate Is Never Equal tells the story of Sylvie Mendez and her family’s fight for school desegregation in 1940s California. With Sylvie as the protagonist, readers are taken through her journey as she tries to find her rightful place at Westminster School. Balloons Over Broadway is about puppeteer Tony Sarg’s life and how he invented the giant balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The books are written in a style where they can be read like regular fiction picture books; they are more focused on telling a narrative with corresponding illustrations than just stating out facts. This is what makes both of the stories so compelling and successful. Another similarity is that at the end of both books there is a page that puts the person’s life and the events of the book in a larger historical context.
The writing in Balloons Over Broadway is a little simpler than in Separate But Equal, this could be due to the age range that the book is intended for, or the fact that the subject matter is more light hearted. However, both books close out on notes of hope and celebrate diversity.