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Story of Little Babaji

Story of Little Babaji

4.2 4
by Helen Bannerman, Fred Marcellino (Illustrator)

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Helen Bannerman, who was born in Edinburgh in 1863, lived in India for thirty years. As a gift for her two little girls, she wrote and illustrated The Story of Little Black Sambo (1899), a story that clearly takes place in India (with its tigers and "ghi," or melted butter), even though the names she gave her characters belie that setting.

For this new


Helen Bannerman, who was born in Edinburgh in 1863, lived in India for thirty years. As a gift for her two little girls, she wrote and illustrated The Story of Little Black Sambo (1899), a story that clearly takes place in India (with its tigers and "ghi," or melted butter), even though the names she gave her characters belie that setting.

For this new edition of Bannerman's much beloved tale, the little boy, his mother, and his father have all been give authentic Indian names: Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji. And Fred Marcellino's high-spirited illustrations lovingly, memorably transform this old favorite. He gives a classic story new life.

Editorial Reviews

May Hill Arbuthnot
This story, which might almost have come out of some folklore collection, has about it an effortless perfection which baffles analysis . . . The formula is: extreme simplicity of language, short, cadenced sentences with enough repetition to give the pleasant rhythm little children enjoy, a plot full of mild and funny surprises, considerable suspense, and complete satisfaction at the end. Still, the easy charm of this unaffected, convincing little tale eludes us.
Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW said, "Marcellino takes on the task of recasting Bannerman's 1899 Little Black Sambo and obtains winning results. He sets his version in India and his stylish and comparatively spare interpretation captures the childlike whimsy and charm of this long-lived tale." Ages 3-up. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Helen Bannerman's 1899 Little Black Sambo has been transformed into a story that preserves the old magic, but add a new richness. Fred Marcellino preserves the original in many ways. With the exception of changing the names to authentic Indian names, the text is original, as is the small size, and the simplicity of illustration. Even the book's paper stock has a generosity uncommon in many new releases. While it's clear Marcellino has worked to preserve the integrity of the original, he has wrought subtle changes for the better. Using a setting and characters that are both Indian makes for a more integrated story, his brilliant watercolors allow for the richness of Babaji's clothing colors to come through, and his style brings a new depth of motion and emotion to the story.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2Bannerman's famous (perhaps infamous) book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, first appeared in 1899. In the original, a "little black boy" loses articles of his clothing to a succession of tigers. Argue as they do, the animals cannot decide who among them is the grandest. In their anger they whirl around a tree so fast that they melt into a pool of butter ("or `ghi' as it is called in India") while the boy recovers his clothing. "Black Jumbo," the boy's father, takes the butter home to Sambo's mother, "Black Mumbo." A note on this newly illustrated version states that, "For this edition of Bannerman's story, the little boy, his mother, and his father have been given authentic Indian names": Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji. Marcellino's illustrations clearly set the story in India in a time long past. Though the artist's watercolors are well crafted, often amusing, and appropriate to the tone of the text, they and the "new" names appear to only replace one clich with another. The bug-eyed characters, with their diminutive names, serve only to create a new stereotype. Humor is conveyed in the body language of the tigers, and they are magnificently done. Many remember Bannerman's tale fondly, though the story itself has a condescending, childish tone. Those who want a relic of their childhood are likely to be disappointed in this edition. Julius Lester's retelling, Sam and the Tigers, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, 1996), retains the appealing aspects of the story but adds a fresh humor and less-clichd perspective through the names and the warm illustrations.Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A children's classic gets the Michael Jackson treatment: lightened skin, fancy new dress, a bit of (editorial) cosmetic surgery and voila! Fine old wine in a new bottle. The text remains the same (less the American edition's preface), except that Black Sambo, Black Mumbo, and Black Jumbo are given what are billed as "authentic Indian names"—Little Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji—that are still appropriately ingenuous, but considerably less loaded. Marcellino (The Pelican Chorus, 1995, etc.) provides illustrations far more polished than the originals, ably capturing both the story's true setting and its glorious silliness. Little Babaji, looking like a glossy teak marionette, faces a succession of huge, luxuriously supple tigers whose eventual meltdown provides him, Papaji, and sari-clad Mamaji with a supper of pancakes—and "Little Babaji ate a Hundred and Sixty-Nine, because he was so hungry." Offered in a square format about an inch higher than the diminutive original, this remake combines a star illustrator and a story with proven appeal: You can't beat it.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.00(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Fred Marcellino's picture books include Puss in Boots, a Caldecott Honor Book; The Steadfast Tin Soldier, an ALA Booklist Children's Editors' Choice; and The Pelican Chorus, one of School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year.

His most recent books, The Story of Little Babaji and Ouch! are both ALA Notable Children's Books.

Dancing By the Light of the Moon: The Art of Fred Marcellino will open on November 9, 2002 and run through January 26, 2003 at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This is a comprehensive show of more than 150 pieces highlighting his children's book career, and the first museum retrospective honoring the artistic accomplishments of this remarkable artist. For more information visit, The Norman Rockwell Museum website.

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Story of Little Babaji 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
h_leipart More than 1 year ago
My kids and I really enjoyed this story. It surprisingly has become a favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful revised version of the story of Little Black Sambo, Beautifully illustrated.There are quite a few versions of Little Black Sambo in print ,this one is by far the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I fondly remember the book "Little Black Sambo" from my childhood. Often when my three and six year old sons would run around in circles, I warned them that they would turn into butter. I was delighted to find this book on the library shelf. I have read this story to them every night for two weeks, and they savor every word of it. The illustrations are gorgeous. The humor comes out in the potrayal of the tigers. The language is soothing, simple, and repetitive. Perfect for emerging readers. I pause and let my children fill in the words. I highly recommend this book. It's a classic.