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Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling

Sylvia & Aki

by Winifred Conkling

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This book is fiction based on real events during WW II including the internment of Japanese Americans and the educational segregation of Mexican Americans in California. Using the story of two real girls, Conkling gives readers a look into certain realities that are often given little attention. The familial relationships are relatable and the questions the two girls ask of themselves are questions the reader is compelled to contemplate, and the book as a whole is a potential jumping off point for further exploration.
  margothere.library | Aug 8, 2015 |
This was a powerful true story about prejudice and discrimination during WWII. It was interesting how 2 families' lives interacted. Aki's family is sent to a Japanese interment camp and must leave their farm in California. Sylvia's family takes over the farm but she isn't welcome at the closer "white" school. There is so much for 4th/5th graders to discuss with a book like this - morality, fairness, civil rights, fighting for what you believe, why governments behave the way they do. ( )
  amrahmn | Jan 27, 2015 |
Recommended Ages: Gr. 3-6

Plot Summary: Sylvia is thrilled that her family has their own house and farm for the first time. She is staying in the room of another girl and finds a doll on the top shelf of the cabinet. She pulls it out and places her next to her own doll so the Mexican and Japanese doll look like they're friends. Excited to start at a new school, especially one so nice with new textbooks and monkey bars, she is very disappointed when she finds out that she and her brothers must go to the school for Mexicans which is farther away and not nearly as good. Her father is also very disappointed and tries to change things. Can he convince other parents to stand up for what is right? Is he willing to sue the school district for the right for his children to attend?

Meanwhile, Aki is not happy. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, she noticed a difference immediately in the way she was treated just because she is Japanese. Her father was taken away, accused of helping Japan, but she knows it's not true. Her mother and brother are forced to pack their belongings and go to an internment camp but she gets sick and can't go with them. She's forced to stay in the hospital by herself before finally joining her family in the middle of the dessert, where there are snakes, extreme heat, and bathrooms with no privacy. Will her father ever join them? Will they ever make it back to their house?

Setting: Westminster, CA and Poston, AZ

Sylvia Mendez - 3rd grade
Aunt Soledad Vidaurri -
Virginia and Alice - Sylvia's cousins
Jerome - Sylvia's younger brother, 5 y/o
Gonzalo Junior - Sylvia's younger brother, 7 y/o
Aki - would be 4th grader
Seiko - Aki's older brother, working as carpenter in the interment camp
Pop - Aki's father

Recurring Themes: equal rights, internment camps, fair and equal education, World War II, farming

Controversial Issues: none

Personal Thoughts: I really liked this one. I thought it had good character development and it got me interested in the first official desegregation lawsuit. There is a lot to talk about in a book club meeting.

Genre: historical fiction

Pacing: medium-fast, things happen often but not exciting action

Activity: ( )
  pigeonlover | Nov 6, 2014 |
Most of us have heard of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. A previous, lesser known, court case called Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County, California lead to a ruling that having separate schools for Mexican and Mexican American students was unconstitutional. One of the children at the heart of this case was Sylvia Mendez, whose family was renting a farm owned by a Japanese American family, who were currently living in an internment camp. Telling the story of Sylvia and Aki, a girl of the same age in the Japanese American family, in alternating chapters, Conkling does a good job of explaining this aspect of history to her intended age group. An afterword, further reading, bibliography & photographs are included. While the story does not manage to be quite as engaging as it could be, this book is recommended for public and school libraries. The book lends itself to discussion on civil rights, segregation, and the similarities and differences between how different groups experience racism. This book could also have a place in middle school literature circles for lower level readers. ( )
  MissyAnn | Aug 8, 2014 |
RGG: Sweet, brief story based upon the true story of a young girl sent with her family to a Japanese internment camp and a young girl whose father leases the Japanese family's farm and in an effort to have his children attend the local school leads the legal battle to integrate California's school. Some of the writing is lovely, and the girls are well-drawn. Reading Level: 10-12, Lexile 760, DRA 38, FP "P"
  rgruberexcel | Mar 24, 2014 |
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At the start of World War II, Japanese-American third-grader Aki and her family are sent to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona, while Mexican-American third-grader Sylvia's family leases their Orange County, California, farm and begins a fight to stop school segregation.… (more)

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