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Heart of a Champion cover

Heart of a Champion

Ten-year-old Kenji (Kenny) Sakamoto worships his older brother Mitsuo (Mickey), a star on the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. Despite Kenny’s suspected heart condition, he is determined to practice secretly so that he, too, can one day try out for the Asahis. But when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in 1941, Kenny and his family, along with thousands of other Japanese Canadians, are sent to an internment camp in the interior of British Columbia. There, Kenny struggles to keep his family’s spirits up among the deplorable conditions in the camp. Could baseball play a part in helping Kenny realize his dream?

Read about what inspired me to write the book.



“Schwartz shows talent as a writer for bringing in the war theme in a natural way in terms that nine to twelve-year-olds can understand. Heart of a Champion could serve as a model for any aspiring writer of juvenile historical fiction. Highly Recommended.” – CM Magazine


“Engagingly portrayed baseball action and fervor keep the pages turning, as does Kenny’s gradual and believable growth from a quiet boy standing in his brother’s shadow to a confident youngster capable of great leadership, courage, and innovation.” – School Library Journal


  • Red Cedar Book Awards

  • Geoffrey Bilson Award for
    Historical Fiction for Young People

  • Silver Birch Fiction Award

  • Diamond Willow Award

  • Rocky Mountain Book Award

  • VOYA Top Shelf Book


Teacher's Guide

Tundra Books, 2016

ISBN 978-1-77049-880-8, 258 pages,

hardcover, ages 8 to 12



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