Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

By Book Links

In her first picture book, 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 struggle with his father, and the prejudice he faced. Washed in nostalgic sepia tones, Lee’s acrylic-and-wax textured illustrations 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.