Skip to Content

2012 Book Award Winners

Sylvia and Aki

Under The Mesquite

Book Synopsis:

The book Sylvia and Aki recounts the true story of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu. Told in alternating chapters from the girls’ points of view, the story about institutional racism enlightens readers to events in recent history of the US. Aki’s family was relocated from their family farm to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert. Meanwhile, Sylvia’s family has rented the Munemitsu farm and Sylvia and her brothers are not allowed to enroll in the nearby school. Instead, they are sent to the “Mexican school.” This sets the stage for Sylvia’s father to challenge in court the separation of races in California’s schools. The case, Mendez vs. Westminster School District is considered one of the precursors to Brown vs. Board of Education and helped build the case that would end school segregation nationally.

Quote from Rivera national committee

“ ‘Sylvia and Aki’ is a compelling story of two important historical narratives that brings to light the Mexican American struggle for equal education at a time when Japanese American families were being rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II” says Oralia Garza de Cortes, a member of the national committee that selected the title, library and literacy advocate, and past president of REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking).

Winifred Conkling is an author who has published numerous works of nonfiction. She holds a degree in journalism and has worked as a writer and editor at various newspapers and magazines. She also earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. The book Sylvia and Aki is her first children’s book. For more information visit her website at

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

Book Synopsis:

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, highlights the accomplishments of Mexican painter, activist, and muralist Diego Rivera. Tonatiuh’s stylized illustrations include elements of Mayan artwork and represent his interpretation of Rivera’s work. Tonatiuh prompts readers to think about the question: what would Diego Rivera paint if he were alive today? Through innovative digital collage, Tonatiuh juxtaposes contemporary Mexican life with the past.

Quote from Rivera National Committee:

“The recent book by Duncan Tonatiuh, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, is a welcome addition to the early childhood community. Written for young children, the book is complemented with colorful and stylistic illustrations depicting the art and life of the great Mexican muralist. Like Rivera and staying true to his signature art form, the author/illustrator uses Cubism as the preferred style. Children will find the story of Diego Rivera a compelling one as they imagine how his world and theirs can come together crossing social and cultural boundaries. Teachers will find the book rich with opportunities to stimulate children’s cognitive, language and social development. For those committed to developmentally appropriate practice, the biography of Diego Rivera is an ideal book to have in hand for children to experience” says Josue’ Cruz, member of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award National Selection Committee and Past President of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).

Duncan Tonatiuh was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He is a recent graduate of Parsons the New School for Design in New York City, where he studied writing and illustration. His first book, Dear Primo, won a 2011 Pura Belpre silver honor award for illustration. In addition to the 2012 Rivera Award, his second book, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, won a 2012 Pura Pelpre gold award for illustration. He divides his time between New York City and Mexico.