San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


Winifred Conkling’s Sylvia and Aki, and Duncan Tonatiuh’s Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, have been named the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award recipients for works published in 2010-11.

Conkling and Tonatiuh will be honored during a series of events Oct. 25-27 on the Texas State campus and at the Texas Book Festival in Austin.

The authors will give a presentation 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 25 in the LBJ Student Center Ballroom on campus, with special guest Sylvia Mendez. The authors will be signing autographs, and books will be available for purchase. They will also take part in a reception 6-8 p.m. at the Wittliff Collections in the Alkek Library. Mendez will present a talk titled “Critical Issues of Equity in Education.”

Conkling and Tonatiuh will also attend the Texas Book Festival Oct. 27. Conkling will participate in the panel “Together, They Could,” 10-11 a.m. in Capitol Extension room E2.036, while Tonatiuh will read from his book in the Children’s Read Me a Story Tent at 13th and Colorado streets before participating in the 2-3 p.m. panel “Drawing on the Lives of Artists” in Capitol Extension room E2.010. For more information, visit

The award, established at Texas State University-San Marcos in 1995, is designed to encourage authors, illustrators and publishers to produce books that authentically reflect the lives of Mexican American children and young adults in the United States.

The Tomás Rivera considers works in two categories: “Works for Older Children/Young Adult” and “Works for Younger Children,” with each category under consideration in alternate years. This year’s winners were nominated as “Works for Younger Children.”

Sylvia and Aki

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 tells of the relocation of Aki’s family from their farm to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert.

In a parallel story, Sylvia’s family rents the now-vacant farm, only to find the children refused entry in the local school, setting 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.

“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,” said Oralia Garza de Cortes, a member of the national committee that selected the title, library and literacy advocate, and past president of the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Conkling 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

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 of what would Diego Rivera paint if he were alive today? Through innovative digital collage, Tonatiuh juxtaposes contemporary Mexican life with the past.

“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,” said Josué Cruz, member of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award National Selection Committee and past president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“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.”

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 Belpre gold award for illustration. He divides his time between New York City and Mexico.

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