Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

By Publishers Weekly

Yoo debuts with an inspiring tribute to the first Asian-American to win an Olympic gold medal, in 1948. The story begins when Sammy is 12 years old in 1932 California and documents his struggle to reach the top of the diving world. The son of Korean immigrants, he is not allowed to swim at the public pool except on Wednesdays, ‘when people of color were allowed to go inside.’ Third-person omniscient narration grants readers access to Sammy’s thoughts and feelings. Lee’s (Baseball Saved Us) sepia-tinged textured illustrations, made by scratching images out of wax melted over acrylic paints, lend a graceful, respectful tone to the story. Especially noteworthy are three vertical panels depicting his winning dive (an echo of an early three-panel spread that shows one of Sammy’s awkward first diving attempts). Touching on themes of discrimination and determination, this motivational tale concludes with an author’s note that provides details of Sammy’s post-Olympic life.