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Sylvia & Aki

by Winifred Conkling

Published by Tricycle Press, 2011
151 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58246-337-7

Ages 9-12

Podcast featuring this book

Sylvia Mendez’s family is renting an asparagus farm owned by a Japanese American family sent to an internment camp in the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When Sylvia finds a traditional Japanese doll in her closet, she compares it to her own beloved doll and begins to wonder about the girl who once lived in her room. Flashbacks tell how that girl, Aki Munemitsu, came to be living in the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona. In alternating chapters, author Winifred Conkling follows the two girls, who eventually meet when Sylvia accompanies her father to Poston to pay the rent on the farm. Sylvia and her brothers are not able to attend the well-funded elementary school closest to their home because the district insists they go to the one designated for Mexican American children, which is clearly inferior. Eventually, Sylvia’s family sues. The court case—Mendez vs. Westminster School District—eventually desegregated California schools. Meanwhile, Aki and her family face the difficulties of displacement--from cramped living conditions in hastily built barracks to questions about their loyalty--and separation—Aki’s father was arrested before they left home. The narrative, firmly grounded in each girl’s experience, is woven with childlike details and feelings, creating a compelling portrait of two warm, loving families in a fictionalized account of real people and events. (MS) ©2011 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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