TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour

The TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour is your opportunity to learn from and build personal connections with extraordinary book creators and their brand-new titles. Included in all Virtual Book Tour posts are original interviews with authors and illustrators, lesson plans, an activity designed for young people, and much more!

Welcome Julie Abery

Julie Abery on Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory

In this post, we feature author Julie Abery, whose previous acclaimed titles include Yusra Swims. You can hear her speak about her new informational picture book, Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory, illustrated by Chris Sasaki, and try her fun “invitation to imagine” activity. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Julie Abery and the cover of Sakamoto's Swim Club

Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory

  • Written by Julie Abery, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
  • Published by Kids Can Press
  • Release date: May 4, 2021

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! Beautifully told in spare rhyme and vibrantly illustrated, this informational picture book touches on themes of building perseverance, believing in oneself, and challenging stereotypes, while capturing how one person can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

An interior image from Sakamoto's Swim Club, written by Julie Abery and illustrated by Chris Sasaki, featuring a sugar plant in Maui, viewed from a distance at the base of mountains.
An interior image from Sakamoto's Swim Club, written by Julie Abery and illustrated by Chris Sasaki, featuring a policeman on horseback telling kids who are swimming in irrigation ditches to leave.

Explore Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory

Listen to Julie Abery talking with TeachingBooks about creating Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.


Invitation to Imagine

TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activity contributed by Julie Abery.

Imagination Activity with Julie Abery

Becoming an Olympic athlete takes years of dedication to your sport. Imagine you are one of Sakamoto’s swimmers and have finally made it to the Olympic Games. Are you excited or calm? Who are you swimming against? How big is the crowd? What does it sound like? Describe or draw your race.

Finish This Sentence . . . with Julie Abery

As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Julie Abery’s response.

A surprising thing that helps me work is . . .”

A surprising thing that helps me work on my spare rhyming style is running. Running clears my mind, and the rhythm of each step creates a beat in my head, which I use when I am creating new verses.

“You may not know that I have…”

You may not know that I have lived in four countries and can speak four languages: English, French, German, and Dutch.


Thank you!

To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Julie Abery for signing a book for all of us.

The title page of Sakamoto's Swim Club, signed by the author, Julie Abery.

More Connections to Julie Abery and Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory


Explore all of the titles featured in the TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour: one link with author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!

All text and images are courtesy of Julie Abery, Chris Sasaki, and Kids Can Press and may not be used without expressed written consent.

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One Response to Julie Abery on Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory

  1. Chocolate bouquet May 25, 2021 at 8:23 am #

    Your blogs are easily accessible and quite enlightening so keep doing the amazing work guys

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