Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

by Paula Yoo, Dom Lee
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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." The straightforward, somewhat lengthy account chronicles how Sammy trains by diving into a sandpit the other days of the week-which leads to a fortuitous decision to enroll in gymnastics to help him with his sand landings-finds, a coach, and makes peace with his father, who urges Sammy to forgo his Olympic dream in favor of becoming a doctor. Third-person omniscient narration grants readers access to Sammy's thoughts and feelings. As he prepares for his gold-medal dive, "He heard the sound of water lapping against the sides of the pool, the murmuring of the people, the beating of his heart." 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 about Sammy's post-Olympic life. Ages 6-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Lee's monochromatic illustrations make for a powerful lead as we see Sammy, a Korean-American boy of twelve, staring through a wire fence watching white children enjoy a privilege he's allowed only once a week. This is not the only prejudice Sammy faces. His father is determined that he become a doctor, not an Olympic diver as the boy hopes. When Sammy witnesses his honorable father being treated disrespectfully by a restaurant customer, he understands his father's wish for him and works to earn both honors. He becomes a doctor serving in the Korean War and, in the 1948 Olympics, is the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal. The author does a good job of selecting meaningful vignettes to describe both Lee's struggles and his successes. 2005, Lee and Low, Ages 7 to 10.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-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.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781600604539
Publisher:
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
284,784
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.20(d)
Lexile:
AD880L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 Years

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