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Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story Hardcover – April 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 880L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158430247X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584302476
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 2-4. 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 nonwhites. 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 powerful scenes that demonstrate Sammy's indestructible 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 impression; 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. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

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See all 18 customer reviews
I enjoyed reading his biography.
Melissa Sack
It is a wonderful story of dreaming, working hard, overcoming challenges, and being victorious.
Wayne S. Walker
Dom Lee's sepia toned illustrations carry a nostalgic feel.
Joel Bangilan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Sack VINE VOICE on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a biography of Sammy Lee. He was an Olympic gold metalist. Sammy faced lots of prejudice in his life because he was Korean. He was only allowed in public pools on ceratain days. He never let this get him down this make him want to work harder. Before reading this book I had never heard of Sammy Lee. I enjoyed reading his biography. Sammy Lee never gave up on his dreams. He always tried his best. He is a great role model for kids today.
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Format: Paperback
Did you know that in 1932, a sign on a public swimming pool that read "Members Only" really meant that only whites were permitted to enter except on certain days? That year, Sammy Lee, the twelve-year-old son of Korean immigrants who ran a restaurant in Highland Park, CA, stood outside the swimming pool fence one hot summer day and saw a boy diving high in the air and breaking the water with hardly a splash. Sammy decided that he wanted to learn how to do that. The following Wednesday, when people of color were allowed to use the pool, his African American friend Hart Crum showed him how to dive doing somersaults. With the summer Olympics being held in nearby Los Angeles that year, Sammy dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion diver.
However, Sammy's father wanted him to become a doctor rather than an athlete. Six years later, when he was eighteen, Sammy was attending a swim and diving competition, and between meets, he sneaked into the pool area to practice. Jim Ryan saw him and agreed to become his coach. Sammy managed to keep his grades up while practicing diving, becoming the first nonwhite elected student body president in his high school and being offered a full scholarship at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Yet, he still faced discrimination, and his grades fell during his first year of college because he spent more time diving than studying. After seeing a rude customer berating his father in the restaurant and his father responding without losing his temper, Sammy understood why his father wanted him to do well in school. They struck a deal that Sammy could continue diving as long as his grades were good enough for medical school.
The 1940 Olympics were cancelled because of World War II, and Sammy thought his Olympic dreams were dead.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ANT VINE VOICE on April 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is perfect for children of all races, ages, nationalities, and backgrounds. It is the story of Sammy Lee, the first Korean-American (and Asian-American) to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. Following in the footsteps of Jesse Owens and others who came before him, Sammy Lee had one passion in his life: to dive professionally and as often as he could. While his father was adamant on his becoming a doctor instead, he promised Sammy that he could dive, so long as it did not interfere with his studies in becoming a doctor.

Remarkably, Sammy did both. This is his story.

In an era when even Olympic gold medalists were not allowed to eat in the same 'white-only' restaurants as his companions and fellow athletes, Sammy broke the color barrier himself in his own field, and proved to the world that you can do whatever you set your mind to. It is a courageous story of overcoming obstacles, defeating adversities, and making the most out of what you have been given. Not only is this an important tale for children, but even adults can find inspiration in these pages. I know I did.

Simply written, beautifully illustrated, and provocative on many levels, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds is a must-read for anyone who could use a little extra inspiration in their lives. What a truly outstanding piece outlining a truly outstanding story and life!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A Lee & Low New Voices Award Winner, Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story is a picturebook based on the true story of the Korean American boy Sammy Lee. In 1932, when Sammy Lee was twelve, he wanted to dive at the public pool - but like all persons of color, he was allowed to use the pool only one day a week. But his passion for diving did not cool, and for sixteen years, he struggled to balance his dream of becoming an Olympic diver with following his father's wishes and becoming a doctor. In 1948, Dr. Sammy Lee earned his place in Olympic history and became the first Asian American to win a gold medal. Sammy Lee's remarkable story, elegantly told by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Dom Lee with soft, semi-impressionistic style artwork, is an inspirational testimony for young readers about the infinite potential within oneself, and the opportunities one can reach for in America.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those fabulous books that makes kids curious about learning. The story of Sammy Lee's fight for racial freedom, his struggle balanding his father's wishes and his own, and of his determination in all his endeavours is nothing short of inspiring. His struggle as a Korean American trying to become an Olympic swimmer was so inspiring that I almost cried.

Any child who reads this book will, by the end, have no doubt that the final phrase is true: "In America, you can achieve anything if you set your heart to it." As such, this is a great story for a teacher to read with his class. Young students have often been known to be lazy and to feel entitled. This book will help them understand that it is not that way for everyone, that struggling is a part of life, and it will hopefully inspire them to work harder, especially in the face of difficulty.

In the summary, it says "Sammy Lee's story of determination and triumph sets an extraordinary example for anyone striving to fulfill a dream." I couldn't have said it better myself. I can't over-express how true that statement is.

All this raving, and I haven't yet said anything about the gorgeous illustrations. Each image was beautifully drawn with such obivous love and care that they were all inspiriations in and of themselves.

I think most people could benefit from this book, and it is such a pleasant read that I think anyone would enjoy it. It is especially great, though, for classroom reading, especially in more underprivileged areas.
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