On a summer day in 1932, twelve-year-old Sammy Lee watched enviously as divers catapulted into the public swimming pool. Sammy desperately wanted to try diving himself, but the Korean American boy - l
On a summer day in 1932, twelve-year-old Sammy Lee watched enviously as divers catapulted into the public swimming pool. Sammy desperately wanted to try diving himself, but the Korean American boy - like any person of color - was only allowed to use the pool one day a week.
This discrimination did not weaken Sammy's newfound passion for diving, and soon he began a struggle between his dream of becoming an Olympic champion and his father's wish for him to become a doctor. Over sixteen years Sammy faced numerous challenges, but he overcame them all and fulfilled both his dream and his father's. In 1948 Dr. Sammy Lee dove into Olympic history. A matter of seconds after his final platform dive, the scores appeared and Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.
Sammy Lee's story of determination and triumph sets an extraordinary example for anyone striving to fulfill a dream. Winner of Lee & Low's New Voices Award, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds will inspire all who read it.
View Description for teachers/educators
Grades 1 - 5
Sports History, Sports, Self Esteem/Identity, Education, Dreams & Aspirations, Asian/Asian American Interest
View Review text
"This inspirational biography recognizes the life of the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal, at the 1948 Games in London. Even though he grew up in California when "people of color" were only allowed to use the public swimming pools one day a week, Lee was never discouraged from his dream. In college, he made an agreement with his father that he would keep good enough grades to enter medical school, but continue to enter diving competitions. Yoo brings the biography to a dramatic conclusion with the 16 seconds of a three-and-a-half somersault dive. Lee's painterly illustrations give texture and depth to the full-page spreads. More than a story about discrimination and unfair treatment, this story shows one young man's determination and resolve toward accomplishing a goal in life."
School Library Journal
"Yoo debuts with an inspiring tribute to the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal, in 1948. The story begins when Sammy is 12 years old in 1932 California and documents his struggle to reach the top of the diving world. The son of Korean immigrants, he is not allowed to swim at the public pool except on Wednesdays, 'when people of color were allowed to go inside.' Third-person omniscient narration grants readers access to Sammy's thoughts and feelings. Lee's (Baseball Saved Us) sepia-tinged textured illustrations, made by scratching images out of wax melted over acrylic paints, lend a graceful, respectful tone to the story. Especially noteworthy are three vertical panels depicting his winning dive (an echo of an early three-panel spread that shows one of Sammy's awkward first diving attempts). Touching on themes of discrimination and determination, this motivational tale concludes with an author's note that provides details of Sammy's post-Olympic life."
"In her first picture book, winner of the publisher's New Voices Award, Yoo introduces Sammy Lee, the son of Korean immigrants who overcame formidable odds to become an Olympic diving champion, as well as a doctor. In 1932, at the age of 12, Sammy fell in love with diving, but his local pool was open only once a week to non-whites. He faced opposition at home too; his father wanted him to focus on a 'respectful' profession" medicine. Yoo describes how Sammy found a coach, maintained a grueling balance between academics and training, and finally earned both a medical degree and an Olympic Gold Medal. The minimal, well-shaped language focuses on facts, particularly on the boy's seemingly indestructable determination, his struggles with his father, and the prejudice he faced. Washed in nostalgic, sepia tones, Dom Lee's acrylic-and-wax, textured illustrations are reminiscent of his fine work in Ken Mochizuki's watershed Baseball Saved Us (1993), and like Yoo's understated words, the uncluttered images leave a deep impact; an aerial view of Sammy facing the blue expanse of the Olympic pool is particularly affecting. A page of facts closes this handsome, inspiring biography, which will make both an excellent read-aloud for younger children or a read-alone for confident older ones."
"Handsomely illustrated and compassionately written without sentimentality, this picture book biography exemplifies what this genre should be: humanizing and meaningful. In 1932, 12-year-old Sammy Lee could only swim in the public pool on Wednesdays, the only day open to people of color, and Sammy was Korean American. Torn between his dream of diving and his father's urging him to become a doctor, Sammy managed to achieve both, despite barriers and prejudice, and was the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Scratchboard-style, sepia-toned paintings in wax covered acrylics create a textured effect both visually and contextually. The title refers to the 16 years he trained for the 16 seconds it took to perform his winning dive. This hero's inspirational story demonstrates determination and dedication by a man who never gave up and is still an active athlete today at the age of 84."
View Biographical note
Paula Yoo is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has been a full-time journalist at The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and People magazine. Yoo has also been a television writer for The West Wing and Tru Calling. In addition, she is a professional violinist as well as a violin teacher for underprivileged children. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Dom Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, and received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. With his unique style of art combining techniques of painting and scratching details in encaustic wax, Lee has illustrated many award-winning picture books for children for LEE & LOW. He lives with his wife and children in Demarest, New Jersey. To find out more about Dom Lee, visit www.domandk.com