Monday, October 1, 2012

Title: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
 Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Publisher: Lee and Low Books Inc.
Publication Date: 2005
Genre/Format: Picture Book
Classification: Nonfiction/Biography


Sammy Lee fell in love with diving and dreamed of diving in the Olympics. As a Korean-American, and a person of color, he was only allowed to use the pool one day a week. His father wanted Sammy to be a doctor and only agree to let Sammy dive if his grades were good enough to get him in medical school. In 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were cancelled  due to World War II and in 1943 Sammy’s father died. Sammy decided to honor his father’s dream for him and in 1946 he worked hard and became a doctor. Even though Sammy became a doctor he never gave up his dream of diving in the Olympics.  In 1948, in London, he finally got his chance and became the first Asian-American to win a gold medal.

Personal thoughts:
 I read this book several years ago and fell in love with the story. A dream that came to fruition at age 28, after becoming a doctor and honoring his father’s dream, a story of perseverance and following one’s dream. I became curious about Dr. Sammy Lee and found out he was still living. Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and, as an avid Olympic watcher, I heard on television Dr. Sammy Lee was going to be honored at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sixty-four years after he won a gold and bronze medal, both he and Mrs. Lee were honored guests of the United States Diving Team. What an inspiration!

Read Together:   grades K-4
Read without help: grades 4-12

Read With: Duke's Olympic Feet, by Ellie CrowG is for Gold Medal: An Olympics
Alphabet by Brad Herzog

Other notes of interest: The author has included an Author’s Note page telling other facts about Dr. Sammy Lee. Connect to her website

Snippet of Text:
“The sign on the swimming pool read: MEMBERS ONLY. Twelve- year- old Sammy Lee knew exactly what the sign meant—only whites were permitted to enter even though it was a public pool. This was the practice in 1932. Sammy would have to wait until Wednesday when people of color were allowed to go inside.” (Unnumbered page)
“For the final dive in the 10-meter platform event, Sammy decided to perform the forward three-and-a half somersault. This was a very dangerous move. The slightest miscalculation in timing could lead to a serious, even fatal, injury. Never before had Sammy felt such intense pressure. He had trained for sixteen years for this—a moment that would last barely sixteen second from the time he dived to when the scores would be revealed.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Writing: Expository (1)Each year millions of people visit California. Before you write, think about California and the many places people like to visit on vacation. Now write to explain why California is such a popular place for families to go on vacation. (2) Sammy Lee was born in Fresno, California but he was raised, along his older sisters, in Highland Park, California. Create a brochure for a travel company listing things to do and see in both communities.
Connections to Writing: Narrative(1) Write a journal entry, from the point of view of Sammy Lee, how it felt to be excluded from the public swimming pool.( 2) Create an alphabet book about the life of Dr. Sammy Lee, doctor and Olympic gold medal diver.
Connections to Social Studies: Racism in California in the 1930’s, Migrant farm workers in 1930’s,  Dust Bowl of 1930’s
Topics Covered:
Translated to Spanish: No
Translated to other languages: No
Other formats: None

How might you use this book as a springboard for writing in your classroom?


Ellie Crowe (Author) Visit Amazon's Ellienow

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Brad Herzog (Author)

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