By Paula Yoo
Illustrated by Dom Lee

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.

This book is also available in chapter book form as part of Lee & Low Books' new series, "THE STORY OF..." You can order it here:

    • Hardcover publication date: May 2005
    • Paperback publication date: April 30, 2010
    • Trade ISBN: 978-1-58430-247-6
    • Reading level: Ages 6-9 (children's non-fiction picture book biography)
    • Publisher: Lee & Low Books

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."



2003 "New Voices" Lee & Low Award winner

"Starred Review" from KIRKUS REVIEWS and BOOKLIST

"Outstanding" review from HORN BOOK GUIDE

IRA Notable Books for a Global Society by the International Reading Association (IRA)

Children's Book Award Notable by the International Reading Association (IRA)

CCBC Choices 2006 by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)

2006 Children's Books of the Year ("Books Reflecting Diversity: A Look Into a Wider World") by the Bank Street College Children's Book Committee

2006 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, NCSS/CBC

2006-2007 Texas Bluebonnet Award, Masterlist

2006 IRA Children's Book Award Notable, International Reading Association (IRA)

2006 Comstock Book Award Honor, Minnesota State University Moorhead

2006 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature: Honor Book in the Children's Picture Book category

2007 Finalist for the North Dakota Library Association's Flicker Tale Children's Book Award in the Upper Grade Non-Fiction Level category

California Collections selection by the California Readers Organization

William Allen White Masterlist, Emporia State University, Kansas