Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

By Paula Yoo
Illustrated by Dom Lee

Paperback: $9.95

Hardcover: out of stock

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.

Check out the curriculum guide for Buffalo Song from the William Allen White Children's Book Awards, established and directed by Emporia State University.

About the Creators

Thumb_thumb Paula Yoo - Author

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.

Thumb_thumb 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 . He lives with his wife and children in Demarest, New Jersey. To find out more about Dom Lee, visit

About This Title


Paperback: 9781600604539

Hardcover: 9781584302476


Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist
Texas Library Association (TLA)

California Collections
California Readers

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

Books Reflecting Diversity: - A Look Into a Wilder World
Bank Street College Children's Book Committee

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

Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)

Comstock Book Award Honor
Minnesota State University Moorhead

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
National Council for the Social Studies/ Children's Book Council

Horn Book Guide

William Allen White Masterlist
Emporia State University, Kansas

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Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 5

Reading Level:

Grades 1 - 1


Nonfiction, United States History, Sports, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Occupations, Mentors, Immigration, History, Heroism, Fathers, Families, Education, Dreams & Aspirations, Discrimination, Conflict resolution, Civil Rights Movement, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Biography/Memoir, Asian/Asian American Interest, Sports History, Gratitude, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Self Control/Self Regulation, Pride

Part of These Collections