Sylvia & Aki (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This historical novel for middle school readers is based on the true stories of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu Nakauchi, who were 3rd graders during World War II. When Aki’s family is forced to leave their home in Westminster, Calif., for a Japanese American internment camp in Arizona, the Mendez family moves into their home. Sylvia Mendez looks forward to her first day of school, only to be told she and her siblings cannot enroll, although her lighter skinned cousins can. This leads to the groundbreaking Mendez v Westminster desegregation lawsuit that preceded Brown v Board of Education. Meanwhile, Aki worries every day about her father, who is interned separately for most of the war. The chapters alternate between the experiences of Sylvia and Aki, introducing readers to the daily injustices of internment and school segregation.

— Rethinking Schools


Young Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. Young Aki Munemitsu never expected to be sent away from her home and her life as she knew it. The two girls definitely never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected on a Southern California farm in a way that changed the country forever. Who are Sylvia and Aki? And why did their family stories matter then and still matter today? This book reveals the remarkable, never-before-told story—based on true events—of Mendez vs. Westminster School District, the California court case that desegregated schools for Latino children and set the stage for Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education at the national level. 

About the Author

Winifred Conkling learned about Emily and Mary Edmonson and their attempted escape on the "Pearl" when a statue of the sisters was erected in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2010, at the site of the building that once held the Bruin and Hill slave pen. (The building now houses commercial office space.) Curious, Conkling began to research the story of the girls' journey to freedom and was thrilled to find extensive primary source materials, including an account written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the bestselling nineteenth century novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin", and the autobiography of Daniel Drayton, one of the captains of the "Pearl. "Conkling studied journalism at Northwestern University and received her master of arts in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has written more than thirty nonfiction books for adults, most involving health and consumer topics. Her first book for children, "Sylvia & Aki", won the 2012 Jane Addams Children's Book Award for Older Readers and the 2012 Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three children.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781582463452
ISBN-10: 158246345X
Publisher: Yearling Books
Publication Date: July 9th, 2013
Pages: 151
Language: English