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Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
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Sixteen Years In Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  90 ratings  ·  30 reviews
The inspirational true story of Sammy Lee, a Korean American who overcame discrimination to realize both his father's desire that he become a doctor and his own dream of becoming an Olympic champion diver.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Lee & Low Books
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Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, is the story of Korean American Sammy Lee. When Sammy was twelve years old he watched divers at his local swimming pool and immediately wanted to become a diver himself. Because he was a person of color he was only allowed to use the pool one day per week, but he worked tirelessly and became accomplished at his sport.
Sammy’s father wanted him to become a doctor. He became torn between his quest to become a champion diver and his father’s wish for him to go to
N_patricia Brunner
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Crystal Thibodeaux
This biography of the first Asian American Olympic champion is truly inspirational. Sammy Lee experienced many challenges to become successful in his dream of becoming an Olympic diver. Although his father wanted him to pursue a career as a doctor, Sammy still found time to practice diving. He also persevered in his quest of becoming an Olympic champion despite the discrimination he faced.

This book would be good for discussing discrimination and segregation. Some students may hold the misconcep
Alex Roth
A story of a boy, Sammy Lee, who has big dreams of one day becoming an Olympic Diver and winning the gold. However, him being a Japanese American leads to discrimination against him and allows him to only use the public pool once a week to practice. While his father has dreams of Sammy becoming a doctor, Sammy follows his dreams and trains for the Olympics. When his father passes away, Sammy goes to school to become a doctor while still training for the Olympics that he would attend and win the ...more
Sixteen years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo is a book about a twelve-year-old boy named Sammy Lee who has a passion for diving. However, Sammy’s cultural background of being Chinese American sets him back when he is restricted to the pool only one day a week. This is a book all about striving through your passions, even when they are not easy. It’s also a book portraying the cultural barriers between Americans and Chinese, and how Sammy did not let that get in the way of his dreams. Each page ...more
Natalia Lindquist
Sixteen years in Sixteen Seconds is about a young boy named Sammy who wants nothing more than to go to the Olympics for diving. Sammy is driven and determined to reach his goal but his family wants him to become a doctor instead. His Japanese heritage has put a lot of pressure on Sammy at home and at school. Sammy is limited to how many times he can go practice at the public pool due to discrimination. I really enjoyed this book because it demonstrates how cruel kids can be and how people feel o ...more
Well written biography of Sammy Lee, who from the age of 12 had the dream of diving in the Olympics and winning gold. Through many challenges he had to overcome, he achieved his goal in 1948 at the age of 28. He also became a doctor and would also go on to compete and win gold in the next Olympic Games. An inspiring story, told beautifully!
Samantha Howard
The author tells the story of Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal. Because he was viewed as “colored,” Sammy was only able to use the pool once a week. So, we worked in the sand near his home and studied to become a doctor, just as his father had wished. This is a biography because it tells the true story of man and his struggles on the way to making his dreams come true. I chose this books to promote multicultural understanding in the classroom. The context of the writin ...more
Corey Lynch
Dec 12, 2014 Corey Lynch added it
Shelves: biography
This story was about Sammy Lee, a Korean immigrant who went on to win the gold medal in the 1948 Olympics for diving. The story starts with Sammy's growing up and the obstacles he faced while pursuing his dream, including his father's reprimands. Despite the many things standing in Sammy's way he makes his way onto the U.S. Olympic team and wins his event. The story would make a great choice to use to teach perseverance and hard work. It would also be good to teach about diversity and the histor ...more
Makayla Coffey
Sixteen years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo is a book about a twelve-year-old boy named Sammy Lee who has a passion for diving. However, Sammy’s cultural background of being Chinese American sets him back when he is restricted to the pool only one day a week. This is a book all about striving through your passions, even when they are not easy. It is also a book portraying the cultural barriers between Americans and Chinese, and how Sammy did not let that get in the way of his dreams. Each page ...more
This is one of those fabulous books that makes kids curious about learning. The story of Sammy Lee's fight for racial freedom, his struggle balanding his father's wishes and his own, and of his determination in all his endeavours is nothing short of inspiring. His struggle as a Korean American trying to become an Olympic swimmer was so inspiring that I almost cried.

Any child who reads this book will, by the end, have no doubt that the final phrase is true: "In America, you can achieve anything i
Derek Slagle
This nonfiction picture book tells a story about a Korean American, Sammy Lee. Sammy Lee fell in love with diving at the age of 12 and was only allowed to swim once a week because of his race. Sammy's father wanted him to grow up to be a doctor, whereas he wanted to be a diver. With his hard work and determination he accomplished both of these things. This would be a good book to have in a middle level elementary classroom.
In the classroom this would be a good book to talk about racism in the 1
Natalie Hendry
This book is about a young boy named Sammy Lee in 1932 who has fallen in love with diving. He is of the Korean decent and discriminated against living in the United States. There is only certain day he is allowed in the pool and a coach notices him and starts to train Sammy. His father is not supportive of his diving, but this does not stop him. His goal in life then becomes to go to the Olympics; he trains and trains till he reaches his goal. Throughout the story Sammy goes through hard times a ...more
Teachers and librarians, if you have students looking for biographies on athletes, have this book on your shelves. Better yet, put it on display, next to a book on Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, by Paula Yoo is the story of Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Students may be shocked to learn that Sammy, an American boy of Korean heritage was considered “colored” in the 1930’s, and was not allowed in the public pool, except on desi ...more
S10_Jessica Oster
format: picture book
age: grades k-3 (could be used with older kids if there is a specific focus in mind such as writing biographies or studying the mid 1950's)
protagonist: Sammy Lee

This is an inspirational retelling of Sammy Lee, a Korean-American who overcame discrimination and proved to himself and the world that "in America, you can achieve anything if you set your heart to it". In 1948, Dr. Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win a gold medal. A story of determination, triumph, hard
This is a great true story about the first Asian American winning a Gold medal in the Olympics. Sammy Lee grew up during a time of segregation, and was discriminated all his life. Although the hardships they faced as a immigrant family he followed his dreams or being an Olympic driver and his fathers dream of being a doctor. This is a great inspiring story of a time where our country believed in segregation and Jim crow laws. This is a great book to read during the time period of the 1940's to s ...more
Amy Rae
I really liked this one! The story it tells is a great one for when the Olympics are going on (thus why I ordered it into our store :D).
Heather B.
This book was a good non-fiction book about Sammy Lee making it to the Olympics and winning the gold medal. The book dealt with how he faced discrimination growing up and into his adult years. His determination and work hard with diving and grades; eventually it all pays off. Also had elements of historical events as part of it too, such as, the 1940's Olympic Games were canceled due to World War II. The illustrations looked like color pencil drawings and were interesting. I would recommend this ...more
Lila Brantley
This non-fiction picture book is about Sammy Lee, a Korean American diver who was the first to win an Olympic gold medal in the late 1940’s. Following Sammy from his childhood and his experiences with segregation to his young adulthood and the struggle of pleasing his father and himself, this story provides many facts about his determination to win a gold medal. Although the book provides useful facts about Lee, it reads like an encyclopedia interests and never develops a voice of its own. Winne ...more

Format: Picture book
Age level: Upper elementary/middle school
Protagonist: Sammy Lee. a Korean-American

Brief Summary: This is a biograhy of Korean-American Sammy Lee. Sammy dreamt of becoming an Olympic diver but had limited access to pools due to discrimination. His father was another obstacle, as he wished Sammy to become a doctor. This story tells how Sammy persevered to fulfill both of those dreams.
This was a good biography. It covered the life of a relatively unknown man who managed to accomplish great things through hard work and persistence. Not only did he achieve great things athletically, he did it despite racial barriers and he became a doctor in the process. Paula Yoo did a great job chronicling his life and writing an interesting narrative. The illustrations were tremendously detailed and expressive. A good biography to include in anyone's collection.
c. 2005

In 1948 Dr.Sammy Lee became the first Asian-American to win a gold medal. The setting begins in 1930s when segregation was loud and clear. I've read this book aloud to my cousins and have them write about discrimination that they experienced or witnessed at their school.
This was a great book on overcoming discrimination in eyes of Korean-American.
Alesha Harris
The illustrations in this book is are great! This is a biography of Sammy Lee. He was the first Asian-American gold medalist for diving. This book talks about discrimination against Korean-Americans. This is a great book to read in Social Studies when teaching about discrimination and Korean-Americans.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Paula Yoo does a solid job with biographical stories geared for children 2nd through 5th grades. Dom Lee's illustrations support her text and the story does a nice job addressing the struggles that Sammy Lee faced in becoming an Olympic Diver during times of segregation.
Michelle G.
A Korean-American Olympic athlete faces racism and discrimination while growing up in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, his challenges do not end even at the peak of his professional career. An interesting story chronicling racism in California and the irony of the Olympics.
Cathy Blackler
Inspirational story of a truly inspirational man, Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee. Against all odds including racism & familial obligations/opinions, Lee works tirelessly to achieve his dream. A great story of what it truly means to persevere.
Always looking for good biographies for children, or good non-fiction in general. This ia a very good story. My girls wants to read it over and over.
Ms Threlkeld
Fascinating story about a very determined man with Olympic dreams. Great book to add to a school's picture book biography section.
Jul 01, 2009 Cws added it
Shelves: jaros
JAR6OS-Yoo intense training for the olympics-Diving
Jun 12, 2008 Rose added it
797.2 Yoo
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Paula Yoo is an acclaimed children’s book author and novelist, TV drama screenwriter, and musician. Paula’s TV writing credits include NBC’s The West Wing, FOX’s Tru Calling, The N (Paramount/MTV cable network)’s Beyond the Break, The CW’s Hidden Palms, and LIFETIME’s Side Order of Life.

She graduated with a B.A. cum laude in English from Yale University, an M.S. in
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