We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.
Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (2005)
Copy owned by: Medina County District Library
“New Voices” Award Lee & Low Books (Winner, 2003)
Comstock Book Award (Honor, 2006)
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (Honor, 2006)
On a summer day in 1932, a twelve-year-old boy named Sammy stood by the fence that surrounded the public pool. A sign on the fence said, “MEMBERS ONLY EXCEPT WEDNESDAY”. In those years, only whites were allowed to enter the pool anytime, while people of color were only permitted on Wednesdays. Sammy watched in envy at the children having fun in the water. When he saw one child jump and plunge head first into the water, Sammy knew it was something that he wanted to do someday.
Sammy’s parents left Korea in hope of finding a better life in the United States. Sammy’s father knew about Sammy’s desire to learn diving but he wanted his son to focus on his studies so that he would one day become a doctor. Sammy’s father always said, “You can achieve anything if you set your heart to it.” When Sammy’s father died of a heart attack in 1943, Sammy joined the United States Army medical training program. He became Dr. Sammy Lee in 1946.
Sammy’s love for diving did not falter. On days that he was able, Sammy trained in order to compete in the Olympics. In 1948, Sammy became the first Asian American to win a gold medal for the United States at the Olympics held in London, England. Four years later, at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, Sammy won the gold medal again, making him the first man to defend an Olympic diving title and win gold medals in diving in two consecutive Olympic Games.
“Never before had Sammy felt such intense pressure. He had trained sixteen years for this — a moment that would last barely sixteen seconds from the time he dived to when the scores would be revealed.”
The story of Dr. Sammy Lee is not without heartbreak. Since he was young and because of his skin color, Sammy had experienced discrimination. During his senior year in high school, Sammy could not attend his own prom because the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the place where his high school prom was held, only allowed white students to enter. Years later, after doing a diving exhibition with his friends, Sammy was not allowed inside a restaurant to eat with them. And at times, he was still prohibited from using pools except on assigned days. Despite the injustices that he faced, Sammy neither gave up nor gave in. He carried his father’s words in his life. He worked hard to pursue his goals and trained to prove that no one should be judged by the color of his or her skin.
To find out more about Dr. Sammy Lee, you can read the article posted on USAdiver. Dr. Sammy Lee’s portrait on the left was taken from another article published on the website of KCET, an independent TV station in Southern and Central California. The portrait on the right was taken by photographer Max S. Gerber, an editorial and commercial photographer in California. He has also written something about the Olympic medalist. Dr. Sammy Lee is 95 years old this year.