Author Christy Hale holding her award-winning children’s book about Lemon Grove, and a puppet fashioned on the subject, Roberto Alvarez. Photo: Courtesy, Lemon Grove Historical Society

Author, illustrator and educator Christy Hale has received another accolade for her bilingual children’s book about Lemon Grove’s landmark 1931 school desegregation case. 

The book, published in English and Spanish as All Equal/Todos Iguales, received the Focal Award in Children’s Literature from the Los Angeles Public Library. The award honors “a creative work which enriches a child’s appreciation for and understanding of California.”

Hale’s book received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal and Booklist, and also was cited on a number of “best of” lists.

The book was included in “Best Children’s Books of the Year” for 2019 by the Bank Street College of Education, and named a notable book by the American Library Association and the International Reading Association.

The National Council of Teachers of English lauded it as a work of  “Outstanding Nonfiction,” while the New York Public Library called it a “Best Book for Kids.” 

The Los Angeles library award is tailored for honorees in the form of a puppet. In this case, Hale received one based on the student at the center of the school case, Roberto Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School Board of Trustees.

“I always fall in love with my main character while doing research, but this is the first time I actually have an opportunity ‘to have and to hold.’ I love my miniature Roberto Alvarez!” Hale said.

 

Hale’s other books include The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan, an introduction to Isamu Noguchi, the biracial 20th century sculptor and designer. Kirkus honored The East-West House with a “Best Book” award for 2009. 

 

“We could not be prouder of Christy’s accomplishments,” said Laura Hook, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society. “Shedding light on tough topics and little-known historical events is what historical societies are about.”

Filed more than two decades before Brown vs. Board of Education, the Alvarez case was the first successful court challenge to school segregation in the nation, according to the San Diego History Center.
The case focused not on Black students, though, but on Mexican-American children who the school board had decreed should be educated in a two-room structure built for them, and not the main school. 

Alvarez, his son wrote in a piece for the center, became the lead plaintiff because he was a talented student who spoke English well.

Lemon Grove’s historical society maintains an archive devoted to the case and has collaborated with descendants of the children targeted by the school board.

Staff reports 

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