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Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

By Paula Yoo

Illustrated by Dom Lee


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.

Video Interview with author Paula Yoo

Booktalk with author Paula Yoo

Teacher's Guide

Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist
Texas Library Association (TLA)

Children's Book Award Notable
International Reading Association

Notable Books for a Global Soceity
International Reading Association

"Starred Review"
Kirkus Reviews

Asian/Pacific American Award Honor for Literature
Young Readers Illustration Category
Asian/ Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA)

More awards...
Interest Level
Grades 1 - 5
Reading Level
Grade 1
Asian/Asian American Interest, Dreams & Aspirations, Education, Self Esteem/Identity, Sports, Nonfiction, Sports History
Accelerated Reader
Level: 5.2
Points: .5
About the Creators

Paula Yoo is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. She is a television writer and freelance violinist living in Los Angeles. Her TV credits include The West Wing and Eureka.

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 (see full list to the right). He lives with his wife and children in Demarest, New Jersey. To find out more about Dom Lee, visit domandk.com

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