Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: Sakamoto's Swim Club by Julie Abery

I love learning about little events in history which few have ever heard anything about, and this book does exactly that....while inspiring, too. 

How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory
by Julie Abery 
Illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Kids Can Press
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

MAY 4th!!!

The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme. When the children of workers on a 1930s Maui sugar plantation were chased away from playing in the nearby irrigation ditches, local science teacher Soichi Sakamoto had an idea. He offered to take responsibility for the children --- and then he began training them how to swim. Using his science background, Sakamoto devised his own innovative coaching techniques: he developed a strict practice regime for the kids, building their strength and endurance by using the ditch water's natural current. The children worked hard under the dedicated Sakamoto's guidance, and their skills improved. They formed a swim club and began to dominate in swimming events around the world. And then one day, the proud Sakamoto saw an impossible dream come true --- Olympic gold! In a unique approach that makes for a moving read-aloud, Julie Abery uses limited rhyming text to tell the little-known story of Coach Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club. The stunning art of award-winning and highly acclaimed Chris Sasaki perfectly complements the lyrical storytelling. This inspiring picture book offers excellent lessons in perseverance, believing in yourself and not letting others define you, while wonderfully capturing how one person can make a huge difference in the lives of others. In highlighting the team's “bright and loud” presence at events, with their Hawaiian dress and ukulele, it also encourages children to take pride in their heritage and view it as a strength. An author's note with photos and more information tell the fuller story of Soichi Sakamoto and his Three-Year Swim Club. 


                                             * based on a true story
                                             * beautiful illustrations
                                             * inspiring tale
                                             * text appropriate even for younger listeners


With few, poetic words and lovely illustrations, this book reveals a little known tale from history in a way that will inspire even younger listeners.

While the plantation workers in Hawaii work hard under the sun, their children swim in the irrigation ditches. At least, until the officers come and chase them away. A science teacher, Sakamoto, steps in and makes a deal, where he watches the kids, and they're allowed to swim in the ditches. When the corporation builds a pool, Sakamoto's dreams mount with the founding of a club with his swimmers. And from there, they chase an Olympic dream.

Often times, picture books based on historic events can be a bit on the heavy side...when it comes to text and information. This book is not. I was very surprised to find that the author manages to build the scenes, create the story, and draw listeners in by using a poetic and very short text. Instead, the illustrations flow right along with the general story to allow the culture, situations, and emotions to come across. And it's just what this age group needs and will understand.

Then, for those who do want to dive deeper into the historical events, there's a longer summary at the end. 

In other words, it's a wonderful dive into history, offers insight into another culture, inspires listeners to reach for their own dreams, and is enjoyable to read/listen to as well.

No comments: