SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY is the inspirational true story of Sammy Lee, a Korean American who overcame discrimination to realize both his father’s desire that he become a doctor and his own dream of becoming an Olympic champion diver. 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.
"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."- KIRKUS REVIEWS (* Starred Review)
"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."- BOOKLIST REVIEWS (* Starred Review)
"Yoo smoothly incorporates the historical context through Sammy's reactions to pervasive racism. She creates a picture of a person who succeeded through determined hard work -- not a larger-than-life hero, but an ordinary person of great achievement."- THE HORN BOOK GUIDE ("Outstanding" Review)
“Yoo debuts with an inspiring tribute to the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal, in 1948. 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. ”- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“This inspirational biography recognizes the life of the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal, at the 1948 Games in London. Yoo brings the biography to a dramatic conclusion with the 16 seconds of a three-and-a-half somersault dive. 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