Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory by author Julie Abery and illustrator Chris Sasaki

Reading Age: 5 -8 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

In the 1930’s in Hawaii, some parents worked on a sugar plantation. Their children busied themselves by swimming in a ditch. Sometimes police would chase them away from the ditch. A science teacher named Soichi Sakamoto decided to take responsibility for the children while they swam. He coached them in swimming. Eventually a swimming pool was built where young swimmers trained for the Olympics. Bill Smith won gold metals in the 1948 Olympics. This picture book is succinctly told in rhyme. Illustrations are attractive. An author’s note is included.

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Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes by Don Tate

Reading Age: 6 – 10 years

Grade Level: 1 – 5

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

As a child in the 1930s, Ernest Barnes made art when boys were supposed to play sports. Societal pressure pushed him into sports where he eventually excelled but the road was not easy. After an injury, he retired from football and devoted the rest of his life to being a successful artist. My Book Eyes found this picture book biography inspirational because the story tells and shows through illustrations Ernest’s struggles and triumphs as he grew up. Because Ernest became involved in different arts and sports, there is a positive message to get involved and find your talents. Textured patterns and varied views are attractive in illustrations. An afterword, author’s note and bibliography are included.

Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles by author Michelle Meadows and illustrator Ebony Glenn

Reading Age: 4 – 8 years

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Publication Date: December 29, 2020

This inspirational rhyming picture book educates readers about Simone Biles’ climb from foster care to renowned athlete. Her life, with disappointments and successes, impresses upon listeners to get up after stumbles and stay focused on goals. Illustrations are breathtaking and capture power, courage and beauty of Simone’s maneuvers. Additional information included in the back of the book called: 1. Going For The Gold: Simone Biles’ Olympic Journey 2. Roundoff: Fast Facts About Simone and 3. Selected Sources.

Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating by author Rose Vina and illustrator Claire Almon

Ice breaker

Age Range: 5 – 7 years

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

In this picture book biography readers meet Mabel Fairbanks, an African American from Florida. She moves to New York City at 8 years old to live with her brother. That experience is short lived and Mabel finds herself without a home by 9 years old. A family gives Mabel a chance to move in with them and babysit. Viewing ice skaters through a window intrigues Mabel. She saves money, buys skates and teaches herself to skate. When the weather warms, she goes to an indoor ice skating rink to skate however she is denied admission due to her skin color. Eventually she is given opportunities to skate at the rink but only when white ice skaters are not using it. She gets coached and is a very good skater but racism destroys her chances of participating in activities that could lead to the Olympics. Mabel performs on television and in different countries however racism is everywhere. Her career path leads her to coach those interested in ice skating. She plays a significant role in fighting for equality for ice skaters. My Book Eyes are amazed at how many famous ice skaters Mabel Fairbanks coached. Illustrations of ice skaters are dynamic. Included in the back of the book are sections called: About Mabel Fairbanks, Glossary of Figure Skating Terms and Selected Sources.