PPBF: Separate Is Never Equal

Can you believe this is the LAST DAY OF SEPTEMBER?

A couple of weeks ago, I promised that at the end of the month, I would give away a copy of my parent-teacher book book pic from wordpress blogin celebration of National Library Card Sign Up Month. Thank you to all who commented on that post. And the winner is


Congratulations, Jen…I will be in touch to get your mailing address.

For me, September always meant the start of a new school year…as a kid, I always loved the first day. My sister and I each got a new outfit and a shiny new pair of shoes. And I looked forward to seeing my friends after the long summer.

But even though the main character of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick has a shiny new pair of shoes, her first day of school is not going well.


SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (2014)

Ages: 6-9


Discrimination, desegregation, bullying


From Amazon:

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

Opening Lines:

“Sylvia had on her black shoes. They were shiny new.”

Why I like this book:

  • One of my favorite nonfiction picture books of 2014, this story is written and illustrated by the amazing Duncan Tonatiuh who is going to be our December Will Write for Cookies guest!!! And I’ll be reviewing his NEWEST book that month, The Princess and the Warrior. PLUS…there will be a giveaway of one of Duncan’s books!
  • Powerful text combines perfectly with bold distinctive illustrations.
  • Wonderful springboard for discussions on discrimination, segregation, and equality…and also bullying.



  1. Interview and read aloud with Duncan Tonituah: https://youtu.be/n7-kzJVcOUw
  2. A teacher’s guide – grades 1-5: https://laii.unm.edu/outreach/common/educators-guides/2015-Americas-Award.pdf
  3. Book trailer: https://youtu.be/KlyGKQdPePQ

Logo final BB2 1 inch 300dpi



This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on here name and find an archived page of over 1000 picture book posts with activities. Click here for this week’s new reviews.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

About viviankirkfield

Writer for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Press, 2019), PIPPA'S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE MOVE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), picture book junkie, lover of travel, hiking, fly-fishing, cooking, and playing Monopoly with my 9-year old grandson.

Posted on September 30, 2016, in book giveaway, Perfect Pictture Book Friday, Picture Book Review, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. A PERFECT way to start a Friday! To see that I won a copy of Show Me How! and to also get another excellent recommendation from you, Vivian! I’m marking this book down as we speak and will request it from my library.
    Thank you so much and have a great day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congrats again, Jen! Glad you are excited about winning a copy of Show Me How. And today’s PPBF selection is a fab example of the new nonfiction picture books that I adore. Hope you get to read it soon. 😉


  2. Congrats, Jen! You will LOVE this book! Vivian, thank you for introducing me to this important pb!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Jane…yes, Separate Is Never Equal is a tremendous book, for so many reasons. 😉 Duncan manages to say so much in his illustrations. 😉


  4. Love this book! I had never learned about this case in my education classes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duncan finds the best stories to write about…and his illustrations say as much as his text. And I had never heard about it either….I think there is a lot we were never told/taught Beth…hopefully, having picture books like this one will help young kids get a truer perspective on how things really were.


  5. I love this important story about Sylvia Mendez. Should be included in Black History Month. There is a MG novel, Sylvia and Aki, that goes even further into the story — think you’d like it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I came across this book at my library a few months ago. What a powerful story. I’m looking forward to reading your December post with Duncan Tonatiuh, the author and illustrator of this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it will be a wonderful interview, Leslie…and there will be a giveaway of one of Duncan’s books also. He was at the WOW Retreat this summer…and gave a fab presentation…and I even had him for one of my round tables…so very helpful. The mc in my story (fiction) is a little Hispanic girl…so Duncan was the perfect person to read it out loud and give feedback. 😉


  7. Thanks for sharing this recommendation, Vivian! I had never heard about this case before. I hope this book will spread the story of Sylvia Mendez and her parents powerful action to end segregation in CA.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I must find this book! Thanks Vivien–always on the look out for great NF picture books. Congrats on your own lovely book by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this book, and the artwork is just stunning. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing about these kid lit book review hops, Beth..I absoutely love learning about books I’d never heard of. Thank you so much for stopping by…I need to get hopping to read all Susanna’s Perfect Picture Book entries. 🙂


  11. mariagianferrari

    This is an amazing book! I’m a big fan of Duncan Tonatiuh’s work. Thanks for the great post, Vivian 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s a wonderful book, Lindsey…all of Duncan’s are…and thank you so much for the congrats…I’m pretty much over the moon about it…but trying to stay focused and work on revisions and new stuff. 😉 How are you doing?


  13. The title and cover is certainly and eye catcher. This is an interesting story and one that would do well in our schools and libraries as we never felt that kind of segregation through much of our history in NZ. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. There were so many people who made education for everyone a possibility. Separate but not equal is so valuable in realizing that. Who would have thought that HIspanics would have to fight so hard! So glad there are people in America like Mendez. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is such a powerful book — Vivian thanks for sharing it here so it gets wider exposure. If anyone is looking for other read-aloud picture books for raising children’s awareness of the inequities in our country’s history, check out my blog post: http://carolsimonlevin.blogspot.com/2014/03/school-age-storytimes-black-history.html along with the excellent multicultural booklists at http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/books-for-kids

    I have also just published a book called Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates.

    Part coloring book, part lively informational text, it something 8 and 108-year-olds can share together as they literally color in the contributions of 64 courageous and tenacious women who worked for women’s rights in this country as well as the pioneering politicians who’ve worked to make those rights laws. Almost 1/3 of the women profiled are women of color. The page on Dolores Huerta reflects the Hispanic American experience: “Dolores also knew discrimination firsthand. In school, Dolores’ teacher accused her of cheating – her teacher thought the paper was too well-done to have been written by a Mexican American.”

    The book is available on Amazon and teachers are welcome to photocopy individual pages for use in their classrooms.

    Vivian, I’d also be delighted to send you a review copy to raffle off if you’d like.
    Carol Simon Levin
    Author & Youth Services Librarian


    • Hello Carol…so sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment…it went to the bin where I had to approve it and I neglected to check. I will get back to you immediately about your book…I would LOVE to feature it on my blog!!!


  16. Great review! I’ve been seeing this book around – I really need to see if my library has it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This sounds like a powerful story, Vivian, and one that needs to be shared. While it’s wonderful to see how far we’ve come, there’s still further to go on the journey to equal.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sounds like a powerful story to share with the littles. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!


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