Heart of a Champion

Publisher: Tundra Books
Ten-year-old Kenny (Kenji in Japanese) worships his older brother, Mickey (Mitsuo), a baseball hero whose outstanding performance on the Asahi baseball team has given him fame and popularity. Despite Kenny's suspected heart condition, he is determined to practice secretly with Mickey so he, too, can one day try out for the Asahi. But world events soon overtake life in this quiet community. When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in 1941, everything for Kenny and his family spirals out of control: schools are closed, businesses are confiscated, fathers are arrested and sent to work camps in the BC interior and mothers and children are relocated to internment camps. When Mickey is arrested for a small act of violence, Kenny manages to keep his family's spirits up, despite the deplorable conditions in camp. Coming across a "vacant" field covered with scrap wood, broken shakes and torn tar paper, Kenny gets permission to clear it and convert it into a baseball field. One by one, the boys in the camp pitch in, and the work gives purpose to their long days. Kenny's persistence, hard work and big dreams shape the teen he is to become in this story of happiness found despite all odds.


“Using straightforward prose, Schwartz develops Kenny into a well-rounded character. His personal growth is believable, and readers will be engaged and empathize with his problems .... Comparable to several books in the “Dear America” series, this offers a gentle introduction to the plight of persons of Japanese descent during World War II.” -  School Library Journal

“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.” - CM Magazine

“By showing the World War II Japanese-Canadian experience through the eyes of a young boy, Schwartz personalizes the horrendous price paid by these hard-working and loyal citizens. Even to readers familiar with this dark chapter of our history, this novel provides well-researched, poignant details which will provoke further consideration.” - Resource Links