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Sylvia & Aki Hardcover – July 12, 2011


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Kentucky Bluegrass Awards 2013 Master List Grades 3-5
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Tricycle Press; First Edition edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582463379
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582463377
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This novel presents a fictionalized account of injustices endured by two real California children during World War II and is based on multiple interviews with both and other historical records. In alternating chapters Conkling follows the forced relocation of young Aki Munemitsu and her family to a camp in Arizona and the experiences of Sylvia Mendez, who moves into Aki’s old room when her father rents the Munemitsus’ asparagus farm. When his children are denied enrollment in the town’s main school, Sylvia’s father institutes what becomes the landmark desegregation suit Mendez v. Westminster School District. Though both story lines feature only the sketchiest of plots, the author perceptively focuses on both children’s inner questions about their own self-worth and identities as Americans in the face of open discrimination. At the war’s end the children meet (they’re still friends to this day) and exchange dolls. Conkling closes with notes about the families, the suit, the camps, and further resources. This story, despite its purposeful agenda, illuminates a lesser-known milestone in our country’s struggle for equal rights for all. Grades 4-6. --John Peters

About the Author

WINIFRED CONKLING studied journalism at Northwestern University and spent the next 25 years writing nonfiction for adult readers, including for Consumer Reports magazine and more than 30 nonfiction books.  As part of her transition to writing for young people, she is working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sylvia & Aki is her first work for children.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In her first work for young people, author Winifred Conkling brings to light an important but little known story in our nation's civil rights history. Several years before Brown v. Board of Education, third-grader Sylvia Mendez wanted nothing extraordinary--just the right to attend her neighborhood school rather than a "Mexican" school near her family's farm in Westminster. Her family challenged the policy in court, leading the way to a landmark school desegregation case that would pave the way to the abolition of school segregation nationwide.

Conkling weaves Sylvia's story with that of Aki Munemitsu; Sylvia is living in Aki's house and farm, since Aki's family was sent away to an internment camp in Arizona becaue of the war. Sylvia discovers that Aki has left behind her beautiful Japanese doll, whom Sylvia names Keiko, and Keiko becomes the friend of Sylvia's Mexican doll Carmencita. Sylvia wonders if she will ever meet the girl who owns Keiko, and whether they might be friends some day.

The book's chapters alternate between telling the story of the two girls. We discover how Aki's world changes overnight with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of whispers and prejudices from their neighbors. Aki has to hide her Japanese doll, hoping it will still be there when the war is over. Aki and her family are sent to Poston, 250 miles away in the Arizona desert where the flimsy barracks didn't keep out the summer heat or the winter chill.

Sylvia is forced to go to a second-rate "Mexican" school, rather than the beautiful school in her neighborhood. Her father was ignored when he complained and sent letters; but when he decided in 1945 to sue the school system, it was about more than just Sylvia and her family.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce B. Fisher on September 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sylvia & Aki presents parallel issues of official discriminations through the memories of two young girls who lived through historical injustices. The long-lasting policy of segregated public schools and the briefer but abhorrent internment of Japanese Americans during World War II wither under the spotlight of Winifred Conkling's sensitive and compelling depictions. Quite suitable for young readers, the intertwined true-life stories also remind older readers that mistakes from America's past must never be repeated. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is based on the true story of two girls. Sylvia Mendez and her family rent a house that is vacated when Aki Munemitsu and her family are sent to a Japanese internment camp in the World War II-induced paranoia.

When Aki must leave, she can only take a few things. Everything else must be destroyed, lest the officials find something that would mark them as anti-American. She can't take her doll, but she can't bear to destroy her either, so she tucks her away high in the closet.

When Sylvia moves in, she finds the beautiful traditional Japanese doll and tucks her on her bed beside her own traditional Mexican doll. The girls end up corresponding and and even becoming friends as Aki survives the uncertainty of the camp (Where is her father? Will they be reunited? When will they be able to leave?) while Sylvia battles segregation.

When her aunt tries to register Sylvia and her brother for the school that her half-white/half-Mexican children attend, she is told that her niece and nephew have to attend the Mexican school that is much further away. Sylvia's dad fights for her to attend, all the way to court in a much lesser known -- but earlier -- court battle versus the Orange County school system in California.

This short book looks at two groups that experienced discrimination during this post-war time in the US. It's a little heavier on history than plot, reading almost like that very engaging type of non-fiction that tells a story using the format of a novel, which might make it a good fit for kids who prefer non-fiction to fiction, and conversely it could introduce pure fiction lovers to the wonders of well-written non-fiction style.
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Format: Paperback
This was an amazing yet heart wrenching historical fiction about two 3rd graders during WWII. We are given a glimpse of the harsh realities of the time through the eyes of Sylvia during the segregation of schools and Aki who is forced into a Japanese internment camp.
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