Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Chris Sasaki and Julie Abery – Sakamoto’s Swim Club

Date(s) - 09/24/2021
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Author Julie Abery and Illustrator Chris Sasaki share their process of creating the picture book “Sakamoto’s Swim Club : How a teacher led an unlikely team to victory”.

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.


JULIE ABERY is a former preschool teacher who shaped her career reading picture books to children from around the world. She has a passion for combining nonfiction with rhyming verse to tell inspirational stories and looks forward to sharing a little about her process. Julie is also the author of Yusra Swims, The Old Man and the Penguin: A True Story of True Friendship, and the Little Animal Friendsboard book series. 








CHRIS SASAKI is an animation art director, illustrator, and writer living in Oakland, California. He’s worked at Pixar Animation Studios and has designed characters for Monsters University (2013)  Inside Out (2015), Coco (2017), and Onward (2020). He also served as production designer on the Oscar nominated shorts, Sanjay’s Super Team (2015) and Weekends (2017). Some of his other past clients include LAIKA Entertainment, Blue Sky Studios, Disney Television Animation, DreamWorks, Jim Henson Studios, and Tonko House.

In 2016, Chris made his first venture into books with a short story collection for young adults entitled GHOST (Illustratus / Chronicle Books).  He also illustrated Home is a Window (Holiday House), and Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist (Penguin Random House), which received the 2019 Dilys Evans Founders Award from the Society of Illustrators. His work has been featured at Gallery Nucleus, Cartoon Brew, the New York Times, and Red Cap Greeting Cards.

Literary representation by Kirsten Hall of Catbird Agency.