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Sylvia and Aki

by Winifred Conkling


Reviews

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-6-Sylvia Mendez is excited to be living on a rented southern California farm where her father is the boss instead of a field hand. She dreams of her first day of third grade at Westminster School and is devastated when her aunt is told that she and her siblings cannot register. They have to go to the Hoover School next to the barrio since they are "Mexican." That Sylvia is American does not matter. Meanwhile Aki Munemitsu, the girl who used to live on the farm, has been moved to Poston, a Japanese internment camp in Arizona, with her mother and brother. She, too, is American, but Pearl Harbor has made that irrelevant. Aki misses her room, her belongings, and her privacy. Told in alternating chapters from the girls' points of view, this story about institutional racism will enlighten readers to events in recent history. From the court case of Mendez v. Westminster to the conditions at Poston, readers will be moved by this novel based on true events. Back matter include notes about the Mendez and Munemitsu families, essays on internment camps and the end of school segregation, and photos of Sylvia and Aki as children.-Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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.--Peters, John Copyright 2010 Booklist


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