Olympic Diver Sammy Lee (Story Of)

by Paula Yoo (Author) Dom Lee (Illustrator)

Olympic Diver Sammy Lee (Story Of)
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Series: Story of

This compelling entry in the Story of line of chapter-book biographies features Sammy Lee, a Korean American diver who became the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.

On a hot summer day in 1932, twelve-year-old Sammy Lee watched enviously as divers catapulted into the public swimming pool. Sammy desperately wanted to try diving himself, but the Korean American boy -- like any person of color -- was only allowed to use the pool one day a week.

This discrimination did not weaken Sammy's newfound passion for diving, and soon he began a struggle between his dream of becoming an Olympic champion and his father's wish for him to become a doctor. Over sixteen years Sammy faced numerous challenges, but he overcame them all and fulfilled both his dream and his father's. In 1948 Dr. Sammy Lee dove into Olympic history. A matter of seconds after his final platform dive, the scores appeared and Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.

Sammy Lee's story of determination and triumph sets an extraordinary example for anyone striving to fulfill a dream and will inspire all who read it. This chapter book edition includes black-and-white illustrations as well as sidebars on related subjects, a timeline, a glossary, and recommended reading.

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School Library Journal

Gr 3-6--Blending the inspiring story of Olympic diver Sammy Lee with the history of Asian Americans in the United States and diving as an Olympic sport, Yoo packs much into a slim volume. The book follows Lee's journey from his early curiosity about diving to his determination to become an Olympic champion. Throughout his school years, he struggled to balance schoolwork with his burgeoning success as a young diver. Lee, who wanted to make his father proud by becoming a doctor, made time for both diving and studying. When the outbreak of World War II canceled the Olympics in 1940, Lee thought his Olympic dreams were crushed. Later, the death of his father motivated him to attend a U.S. Army Medical training program. Ultimately, Lee became a successful doctor, a gold medalist in the Olympic Games, and a diving coach. In-depth sidebars interspersed throughout offer information on diving, a brief overview of how and why Koreans immigrated to the States, facts about the Asian American population in California, and the career of diver Greg Louganis (whom Lee coached for the 1976 Olympics). Yoo's prose is ideal for middle graders, providing an ideal amount of information to attract and hold their attention. The unique and evocative art, created with a combination of painting and scratching details in encaustic wax, elevates the text. A time line, a glossary, and an extensive source list are appended. VERDICT An appealing addition to biography collections.--Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

* Handsomely illustrated and compassionately written without sentimentality, this picture book biography exemplifies what this genre should be: humanizing and meaningful. — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* ...an excellent read-aloud for younger children or a read-alone for confident older ones. — Booklist, starred review

Paula Yoo

Paula Yoo is an author and screenwriter whose children's books for Lee & Low include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, Shining Star, and several titles in the Confetti Kids series. Her titles have been recognized by the International Reading Association, the Texas Bluebonnet Award Masterlist, and Lee & Low's New Voices Award. She and her husband live in Los Angeles, California, where she works in television. You can visit her online at paulayoo.com.

Dom Lee made his picture-book debut with Baseball Saved Us. He grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and went on to illustrate books in both the United States and Korea. His titles for Lee & Low include Ken Mochizuki's Passage to Freedom and Heroes, as well as the award-winning Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds. Lee's unique illustration style involves applying encaustic beeswax on paper, then scratching out images, and finally coloring the images with oil paint. Lee and his wife live in Hollis, New York.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Lee & Low Books
Publication date
February 25, 2020
Story of
BISAC categories
JNF047000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Readers | Chapter Books
JNF007100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Sports & Recreation
JNF054150 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Water Sports
JNF018020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
JNF054110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Olympics
Library of Congress categories
United States
Lee, Sammy
Springboard diving

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