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Sylvia & Aki

Sylvia & Aki
Tricycle Press/ Random House Children's Books
Trade Hardcover, $16.99, 9781582463377
Library Binding, $19.99, 9781582463971
Ages 9-12/ Grades 4-6, 160 pages
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Jane Addams Children's Literature Award
2012 Jane Addams Children's Literature Award
for Older Readers

Read more about the award here
Watch my acceptance speech here

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 California during a time when their country changed forever.

Here is the remarkable story based on true events of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu, two ordinary girls living in extraordinary times. When Sylvia and her brothers are not allowed to register at the same school Aki attended - instead, they are sent to a "Mexican school" - the stage is set for Sylvia's father to challenge in court the separation of races in California's schools. Ultimately, Mendez vs. Westminster School District led to the desegregation of California schools and helped build the case that would end school segregation nationally.


"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."—School Library Journal

"A well-documented, quietly powerful story."—Kirkus Reviews

Sylvia & Aki is featured in the August 2, 2011 issue of Curriculum Connections: Selective K-12 Resources from School Library Journal in partnership with

Tomas River Mexican American Children's Book Award


  • 2012 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award
  • CCBC Choices 2012 (Cooperative Children’s Book Center)
  • Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature,
    2012 Commended Title


Read an interview with Winifred by Cynthia Leitich Smith on her Cynsations blog.

Click to buy the book:

Sylvia and Aki at Indiebound Sylvia and Aki at Barnes and Noble Sylvia and Aki at Amazon

Some photos:

Sylvia as a girl
Sylvia as a girl.
Sylvia's parents
Sylvia's parents.
Aki as a girl
Aki as a girl.
Aki and her parents
Aki and her parents.
Posten Relocation Camp
Poston Relocation Camp.
Posten postcard
Poston Relocation Camp.

Watch a video of my acceptance of the 2012 Jane Addams Children's Literature Award for Older Readers:

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