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SAKAMOTO'S SWIM CLUB

HOW A TEACHER LED AN UNLIKELY TEAM TO VICTORY

Exudes inspiration and dedication.

A science teacher trains kids who are playing in irrigation ditches how to swim, eventually leading them to the Olympics.

In the 1930s, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, migrant workers cut sugar cane, leaving their kids to their own devices. In the hot sun, the kids swim and dive in the irrigation ditches that run through the fields, but the police yell at them and chase them out. When science teacher Soichi Sakamoto sees this, he decides to help the kids. He convinces the authorities to let the kids use the ditch, which he trains them to treat like a swimming lane. Sakamoto creates a daily program for them to follow, making his students swim upstream to make them stronger. Over time a pool is built, and the Three-Year-Swim Club is established with dreams of the Olympics. But war interrupts their dreams until they finally get their chance in the 1948 Olympics. Told in clipped, rhyming verse, this is a quick, simplified account of a lesser-known inspirational story in sports history. Sakamoto and the swimmers’ journey to the Olympics exemplifies perseverance and determination. It is an excellent read-aloud, with additional information for adults to give context in the form of an author’s note that provides the story again in prose, with more details and additional facts. The illustrations are full of bright colors, befitting the beautiful landscape; both kids and Sakamoto are depicted with brown skin and black hair. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Exudes inspiration and dedication. (sources) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0031-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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