Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sylvia & Aki” as Want to Read:
Sylvia & Aki
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sylvia & Aki

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  576 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
Sylvia never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school.

Aki never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year.

The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern Cal
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Tricycle Press (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sylvia & Aki, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sylvia & Aki

Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtBigger than a Bread Box by Laurel SnyderWords in the Dust by Trent ReedyThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own M... by Catherynne M. ValenteBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Middle Grade Novels of 2011
36th out of 146 books — 154 voters
Number the Stars by Lois LowryBreathing Room by Marsha HaylesThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker BradleyThe Children of the King by Sonya HartnettThe Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Middle Grade set in the 1940s
10th out of 104 books — 8 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,295)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 28, 2012 Rilee rated it really liked it
Audience: Upper Primary-Intermediate

Appeal: The author personalizes the discrimination of the time in a way that today’s readers will be able to relate to and they are able to understand the importance of the historic events. It is a little-known case that is a huge turning point in Latino history. It makes events seem read to the readers.

Award: Tomas Rivera Book Award
May 24, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: latino
This story chronicles the lives of two young girls & their families who faced racial segregation during World World II. First, there is Aki Munemitsu, a Japanese-American, and her family who owns an asparagus farm, but is sent to internment camps after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Second, there is Sylvia Mendez, a Mexican-American, whose family takes over the farm from the Munemitsu family and the children are denied the ability to go to the local white school. Each chapter rotates betw ...more
The Library Lady
The writing and dialogue are a bit stilted, but this is a nice little story about prejudice, about family and about friendship for younger readers.
Margo Tanenbaum
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 ...more
Emily Mateos
Nov 18, 2012 Emily Mateos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grade/interest level: Upper Elementary (4th-5th grade)
Reading level: No lexile level available but because of length, words used, and content I would say 4th grade
Genre: Information book, Multicultural

Main Characters: Sylvia and Aki
Setting: rural Westminster California on the family farm and at the school where Sylvia was turned away
POV: 3rd person narration

This book tells a story about a young Mexican American girl who is turned away from the closest school, Westminster, because of the color o
Jul 11, 2013 Dona rated it it was amazing
Discussion questions:

remember: From which foreign countries did Sylvia's parents come?(Ch.1, p.10)
From which over-seas country did Aki's parents come? (Ch.2, p.26)
What world event changed the lives of Sylvia and Aki? (Ch.2, p.20)

understand: How did WWII effect these two families?
(Ch. 1, p.4 Ch.2, p.19-24 Ch.13, p.126)

apply: Today the enemies of the United States are Iran and Pakistan and other countries in the Middle East. What should the American government do to protect us from Iranian peopl
Jul 16, 2013 Dorothy rated it it was amazing
Dorothy Schultz
TED 2360
Children's Lit.

"The blanket felt soft against Sylvia's head as she leaned back. She thought about Aki. How does she celebrate a holiday that's all about freedom when she's inside an internment camp?
What can the word freedom mean to someone trapped behind a barbed-wired fence?" (Insert from page 97).

2012 (Honored) Tomas Rivera Award and Jane Addams Children's Book Award "Sylvia & Aki" by Winifred Conkling is a wonderful book about friendships that can build when
L13F_Jana Wilkening
This 2012 America’s Award Commended title AND 2012 Tomas Rivera Award winning book tells the amazing true story of two third grade girls, Sylvia and Aki. The chapters alternate with each girl’s point of view as we follow their journey during the 1940s. Aki tells the story of her family’s forced relocation to a Japanese internment camp. Sylvia’s family moves into Aki’s family’s farm where she tells the story of her father’s fight to allow her and her brothers to enroll in the nearby school as opp ...more
Penny Peck
Sep 14, 2011 Penny Peck rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-ya
A charming book based on two true stories that are important to California history - perfect for 4th graders, relatively brief and easy to read chapter book fiction that would also make a great classroom readaloud. Sylvia and her brothers are denied admittance to the nearby school, and are told to enroll at the "Mexican" school across town (near the barrio). And Aki is at a Japanese American Relocation camp in Poston, AZ. Sylvia's family has leased their farm from Aki's family, and the girls' us ...more
Kylie Svoboda
Audience: 3rd-6th graders. Great for girls but boys would enjoy it too.
Appeal: The book is very good. One of the best books I have read this summer. The book would tie in perfectly when learning about World War II in social studies class. The book shows the racism and segregation that the Mexican Americans edured aswell as the Japanese Americans during the Japanese interment camps. This novel would give students a perspective on the Japanese and Mexican American's living the 1940's. This book w
Oct 31, 2015 MrsMitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2015
Wow, what a fascinating true story, and this book tells it in such a wonderful way! The alternating chapters made me feel connected to both Sylvia and Aki, and I loved seeing how they came together! What an important story in American history!
Jun 28, 2012 Maira rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-lit
The 2012 Tomas Rivera Book Award was given to Sylvia & Aki along with another winner. I really enjoyed this book which told the stories of two young girls of different backgrounds and their challenge with segregation. This book would be a great read for students 3rd grade & up & also could be for teacher seeking to teach students about rights. Over the course of this class, I think this was my favorite book. This book would be appealing to students of different backgrounds that could ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll539
Sylvia & Aki is a beautiful novel that brings us the real stories of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu during the time of World War II. Each chapter alternates between the story of Sylvia and Aki and begins with either a Mexican or Japanese proverb. Aki is a Japanese American girl who was relocated from her home in Westminster, California, to an internment camp. The Munemitsu family leased their farm to the Mendez family while they were away, which brought Sylvia to live in Aki’s room while sh ...more
Maria Celis
Mar 20, 2014 Maria Celis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: etec545onlined
Conkling, Winifred. Sylvia & Aki. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2011.

Characters: Sylvia Mendez, third grade Mexican-American daughter of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez; Aki Munemitsu, third grade Japanese-American and internment camp resident.
Setting: Westminster, CA; Santa Ana, CA; Poston internment camp, Arizona
Theme: juvenile perspective; California & WWII; family; racial segregation in education; Japanese internment
Genre: Historical Fiction; Children’s; YA; Cultural
Summary: Sylvia’s and Ak
Sylvia & Aki has a subtitle on the cover that reads: "Friendship know no barriers." The story, however, is not really about the friendship between the two girls. It is told in alternating narrations by Sylvia Mendez, a young Mexican-American girl whose family is leasing a farm in Southern California in the 1940's and who is refused admittance to the neighborhood school. She and her brothers are told they must go to the 'Mexican' school near the barrio instead.

The other narrator is young Aki
Eydie Aremburg

Category: Middle Grade

Genre: Fiction

Sub-genre: Historical fiction

Interest Level: Grade 3 - 5

Reading Level: Lexile 760; DRA 40

Brief description: Taking place during World War II, the book Sylvia and Aki tells the story of two girls and their families. Both face discrimination during a time when American-Japanese people were feared by many people after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and many people considered Mexicans inferior to white people.

Identify at least 2 characteristics of this genre(s) and
Zoua Yang
Jul 12, 2014 Zoua Yang rated it it was amazing
This novel was inspired by true events and the injustices that two girls faced in southern California. When Aki Munemitsu and her family were sent to an internment camp shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Sylvia Mendez and her family rented their home and took care of their asparagus farm. Sylvia's father tried to enroll her and her siblings to the nearest school in Westminster School District where Aki had previously attended, but they were told that Mexicans were not allowed and had to ...more
Erika Gentry
Jun 24, 2014 Erika Gentry rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Good read for students in grades 3-6. California 1941-1955. True story of two girls-chapters alternate as each girl tells her story. One story tells of Aki-a Japanese American whose family is forced to move from their California farm to Arizona to live in an internment camp. Meanwhile, Sylvia's family (Mexican American) move to Aki's home and care for their farm. They learn they can't send their children to the nearby "white-only" school (although Aki attended it?) and her family peti ...more
Rida Hoti
Jan 14, 2016 Rida Hoti rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Best friends
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miss Amanda
gr 4-6 134 pg

1941, 1944-5, Santa Ana, CA/Poston Relocation Center, AZ. Based on true events. Aki and Sylvia have a lot in common: They live in the same house, they both like dolls, and they both face injustices. Aki and her family were forced to leave their farm and relocate to the Poston Relocation Center because they are Japanese American. Aki's family leases their farm to Sylvia's family. Sylvia is not allowed to attend her neighborhood school and is forced to attend the "Mexican School". Syl
Mar 24, 2016 Laura rated it it was amazing
A sweet book based on a true story, Sylvia is of Mexican heritage and Aki is of Japanese heritage. During WWII, Aki's family is forced into an internment camp, and Sylvia's family rents their farm and lives in their home. When Sylvia is forced to go to the substandard school for "Mexican" kids and not to the regular school closest to their home, her father embarks on a grass-roots campaign to sue the school district.

This book interweaves two dark histories (of so many) during that time period -
Based on a true story, this book is packed with social and political issues: racial discrimination, the Japanese internment, wartime attitudes, and separate but equal schooling. It works primarily because it introduces children to important historical events in our country and it's a true story. Sylvia and Aki seem too sophisticated in their thoughts and responses but kids won't notice. They'll understand friendship and injustice. Back matter provides background on the internment, the Mendez and ...more
Kathryn Allen
A tale of two families that portrays the complexities of life in 1941 for families of color. The Civil Rights Movement and WW2 connect the families of Sylvia Mendez, a Mexican American girl who wants to go to school, and Aki Munemitsu, a Japanese American girl who wants to go home. The Mendez family rents the Munemitsu farm when Aki and her family are sent to an internment camp. Sylvia finds that she and other Mexican Americans are not allowed to go to the local school. leading to a landmark leg ...more
Sep 29, 2015 Jocelyn rated it liked it
Good to pair with Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner for discussions about Japanese Internment Camps during WWII. Relatively short quick-read as well. Sylvia's parents are Mexican-American and she is forced to attend a segregated school in California while Aki's parents are Japanese-American and her whole family is sent to internment camps.
This is another of those books that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. I’d never even heard of this book until I had to read it for class. When I began reading it, I was excited about the subject. It didn’t quite live up to that initial excitement.

Japan has just bombed Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. is turning against its Japanese-American citizens. Aki and her family are shipped off to an internment camp. Sylvia’s father takes over their farm, and Sylvia is excited to start school at Westminster.
Katharine Ott
"Sylvia Mendez imagined her first day of third grade at Westminster School." Winifred Conkling's short chapter book, "Sylvia & Aki," makes frequent use of a pattern of Sylvia, of Mexican descent, and Aki, of Japanese descent, imagining situations and subsequently being barred from participation. The book alternates chapters between the two girls as they feel the full force of injustice and inequality in 1940s California.

Sylvia's father passionately pursues the goal of his children attending
Shaeley Santiago
Apr 18, 2012 Shaeley Santiago rated it really liked it
This book is written in chapters that alternate between the story of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu in Southern California around the time of WWII. Aki's family gets sent to a Japanese internment camp in Poston, AZ just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Sylvia's family leases their farm outside Westminster, CA while the Munemitsu family is imprisoned. Although Aki was allowed to attend the Westminster Elementary School as a Japanese-American, Sylvia and her two younger brothers ar ...more
Sylvia and Aki is a wonderful historical novel about school segregation and Japanese internment. It takes place over several years in the 1940s and is based on true events. Aki and her family live on their asparagus farm and enjoy life in America. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and everything changes. People look at them suspiciously and they receive notice that they will have to leave their home and move to an internment camp. Her father is imprisoned in a different camp and it is years be ...more
Jun 04, 2012 Sunday rated it really liked it
This is a simple novel that describes the intersection of the lives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu. In real life, Sylvia's parents sued the Westminster School District (in the 1940's) for segregating Mexican children into impoverished schools and won (ten years before Ruby Bridges integrated the all white school in New Orleans). While Mendez's family was living in this school district, they were renting the asparagus family farm of Aki, whose family was sent to the Japanese internment camp i ...more
Mary Louise Sanchez
Aug 10, 2011 Mary Louise Sanchez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: debut-authors
Winifred Conkling, a dubut author of children's stories, has given the young reader parallel stories with parallel chapters which have Japanese and Hispanic proberb headings to match the chapters. The stories are based on true incidents of two real girls who lived in southern California before the bombing of World War II. Soon after, Aki Munemitsu's family is sent to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona and Slyvia Mendez's family leases the Munemitsu farm and house. Although this is a good move ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 43 44 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dash
  • New Shoes
  • Crossing Bok Chitto
  • Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
  • Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • A Diamond in the Desert
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • The Klipfish Code
  • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark
  • Dancing Home
  • Paper Wishes
  • Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
  • All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
  • Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret
  • The Harmonica
  • Baseball Saved Us
  • Lara's Gift
  • Zora and Me
WINIFRED CONKLING studied journalism at Northwestern University and spent the next 25 years writing non-fiction for adult readers, including for Consumer Reports magazine and more than 30 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
More about Winifred Conkling...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »