Sam and the Tigers: A Retelling of 'Little Black Sambo'

Overview

Once upon a time there was a place called Sam-sam-sa-mara, where the animals and the people lived and worked together like they didn't know they weren't supposed to. There was a little boy in Sam-sam-sa-mara named Sam... So begins this delightful telling of one of the most controversial books in children's literature, Little Black Sambo. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney reveal at the heart of this story a lively and charming tale of a little boy who triumphs over several hungry tigers. "Lester and Pinkney have ...

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Overview

Once upon a time there was a place called Sam-sam-sa-mara, where the animals and the people lived and worked together like they didn't know they weren't supposed to. There was a little boy in Sam-sam-sa-mara named Sam... So begins this delightful telling of one of the most controversial books in children's literature, Little Black Sambo. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney reveal at the heart of this story a lively and charming tale of a little boy who triumphs over several hungry tigers. "Lester and Pinkney have stripped away the ugly racism and...reclaimed a great classic for children. AThe? expansive black storytelling voice is both folksy and contemporary, funny and fearful." —Booklist

Follows the adventures of a little boy named Sam when he matches wits with several tigers that want to eat him.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this retelling of "Little Black Sambo"-the story of a boy who outwits a group of tigers-Sam is a boy in the land of Sam-sam-samara, where everyone is named Sam and animals live and work among people. Lester uses a black southern storytelling voice, which, together with Pinkney's magnificent illustrations, make this much maligned classic a tale all races can enjoy.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Troubled by the racist trappingsthe characters' names and the stereotypical illustrationsof The Story of Little Black Sambo, but drawn nonetheless to its hero and its humor, Lester and Pinkney set out to reinvent the tale. Their interpretation is more freewheeling than Fred Marcellino's (see The Story of Little Babaji, above), and they departs frequently and ingeniously from Bannerman's version. The new book's protagonist is simply Sam; the setting is the land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where everyone is named Sama touch that not only defuses any echoes of the original hero's derogatory name, but allows for many wonderfully absurd exchanges ("Sam looked at Sam. Sam shrugged. Sam shrugged back...."). Using the lively Southern black voice of his Uncle Remus retellings, Lester creates a savvy, comically streetwise hero who quickly learns to anticipate the tigers' muggings (" `You know the routine,' said the Tiger. Sam nodded and took off his pants. `Take 'em.' ") while losing none of his own sass. Pinkney's lavish illustrationsa feast of figures, color, expressions and detailpick up and run with the expansive mood of the text. A hip and hilarious retelling that marries the essence of the original with an innovative vision of its own. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Using a lilting, Southern voice, Lester retells Little Black Sambo, accompanied by fabulous watercolors from Pinkney. In this version, our hero is named Sam, just like everyone else in the magical town of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where animals act like people and most everyone lives in harmony. Sam decides that he is old enough to select his own new school wardrobe, so he gets a bright red coat, rich purple pants, blazing yellow jacket, brilliant green umbrella, and shiny silver shoes. Stopped by tigers on his way to school, Sam is forced to give up his beautiful new clothes, piece by piece. But all is not lost, as this smart little boy finally outwits the greedy tigers. The detailed illustrations are beautiful double-page scenes filled with warmth and humor.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Lester and Pinkney's version of Little Black Sambo occurs in a magical place "called Sam-sam-sa-mara, where the animals and people lived and worked together like they didn't know they weren't supposed to." Readers will be pulled into the fun of Lester's gorgeous blending of unusual image, his storytelling voice filled with animated dialect and banter, that brings the classic tale into the 20th century! When the tiger with Sam's red coat growls "I'm the finest" the Tiger in the yellow shirt disses, "No way, Insect Breath! I'm the finest!" Pinkney's illustrations are a wonderful blend of fantasy, realistic detailing, and a frivolity that lights up the pages.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
The controversial Little Black Sambo is back with a new look and a sassy voice suited for the '90's. Sam lives in Sam-sam-sa-mara where everyone is called Sam. He and his parents buy clothes at stores with names that foreshadow the humor and tall tale style of this story, e.g. Mr Elephant's Elegant Habiliments and Monkey's Magnificent Attire. The tigers that Sam meets are handsome animals, but appropriately fierce so that his deals with them show his smart survival instincts. While the tigers fight each other, Sam retrieves his clothes, holds his green umbrella up "like a victory flag" and swaggers off. The paintings expand the text and create a rich setting for the story. Sam is every child's hero.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3Lester and Pinkney reclaim "Little Black Sambo," the tale of a black child who outwits a pack of bullying tigers, from its negative, racist connotations. The reteller places the story squarely in the fantasy land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, a place "...where the animals and the people lived and worked together like they didn't know they weren't supposed to." All the humans are named Sam, which allows for a touch of Monty Pythonesque humor. Lester narrates the story in what he describes as a "southern black storyteller's voice." He deftly employs devices such as hyperbolic similes (Sam's jacket is "as red as a happy heart"), repetition, and understated humor. The rolling, lilting narrative is a model of harmony, clarity, and meticulously chosen detail, accessible to listeners as well as to independent readers. Pinkney's lively pencil-and-watercolor illustrations sprawl extravagantly across double spreads and are smoothly integrated with the narrative. The pictures are filled with motion, contrast, and appealing, often whimsical details. In their notes, both the author and the illustrator comment on the goals of their collaboration and their personal feelings about the original story. Some may feel that there is too much historical and cultural baggage attached to "Little Black Sambo" to make any retelling acceptable, but those who approach this thoughtful and entirely appealing book with open hearts and minds are in for a wonderful time.Donna L. Scanlon, Lancaster County Library, PA
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3--A reimagining of Little Black Sambo set in Sam-sam-sa-mara, where everyone is named Sam. Lilting language and exuberant artwork give an old story bold, new, (and politically correct) life. (Aug. 1996)
Kirkus Reviews
A sassy retelling of Little Black Sambo, set in the imaginary land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where animals are people, too, and all the humans are named Sam. When young Sam and his parents, Sam and Sam, go into town to buy school clothes, he chooses the brightest colors he can find. No sooner does he set off down the road than he begins to lose his finery to a succession of tigers—by the last, instead of "I'm going to eat you up," the tigerly greeting is, "You know the routine." The proud tigers meet up, squabble until they melt down, and end up as pancakes on the Sams' table. Pinkney gives the tale a verdant setting in which even trees have faces and almost every creature, from elephants to insects, is clothed in turn-of-the-century garb. Also, unlike Fred Marcellino, whose paintings for a deftly edited reissue of the tale (The Story of Little Babaji, p. 1044) follow the original's more closely, Pinkney chooses not to show the tigers strutting their stuff; the net result is to rob the story of much of its broad irony. As usual, Lester's prose is fine and funny read-aloud, but the creative interplay of text and pictures doesn't reach the heights of this team's John Henry (1994).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140562880
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Series: Picture Puffin Books Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 661,575
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.12 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005

    tigers and sam

    its like sam had a bad day with has clothes because if he doesn't give the tigers his clothes, he would get eaten. The part that I like is when they say 'Ain't I Fine'. I hated the way they looked and the fact that all of their names were Sam. I recommend this book to students, because it is funny and full of jokes and words that are quite complicated.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2004

    Sam and the Tigers was a great book!!

    Sam and the Tigers was a great book. I really liked how Sam kept on getting new clothes! The animals were really cool too. The end was especially interesting. I would definatly recommend this book to my students! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

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    Posted January 2, 2009

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