Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds
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 non-whites. 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 facts, particularly on the boy’s seemingly indestructable 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 impact; 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.
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