Story of Little Black Sambo

Story of Little Black Sambo

3.8 19
by Helen Bannerman

View All Available Formats & Editions

The jolly and exciting tale of the little boy who lost his red coat and his blue trousers and his purple shoes but who was saved from the tigers to eat 169 pancakes for his supper, has been universally loved by generations of children. First written in 1899, the story has become a childhood classic and the authorized American edition with the original drawings by


The jolly and exciting tale of the little boy who lost his red coat and his blue trousers and his purple shoes but who was saved from the tigers to eat 169 pancakes for his supper, has been universally loved by generations of children. First written in 1899, the story has become a childhood classic and the authorized American edition with the original drawings by the author has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Little Black Sambo is a book that speaks the common language of all nations, and has added more to the joy of little children than perhaps any other story. They love to hear it again and again; to read it to themselves; to act it out in their play.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this edition of Bannerman's story, first published in 1899, a long afterword from the publisher spells out its checkered past. But while the text remains nearly precisely the way Bannerman told it, Bing's (Casey at the Bat) light-infused illustrations focus on the heroic boy's courage and ingenuity as he outwits a series of tigers in the forests of India. One of the giant striped foes lurks in the grass on the title page, and the opening spread depicts Black Mumbo and Black Jumbo, the boy's parents, returning from the marketplace among buildings of onion-shaped domes and the ruins of exotic columns. They present him with the "beautiful little Red Coat,... Blue Trousers,... Green Umbrella... and lovely little Pair of Purple Shoes with Crimson Soles and Crimson Linings"; he will use these to bargain with the threatening tigers, before reclaiming them while the tigers fight to prove who looks grandest in his vestments. Unlike the vain tigers of Marcellino's The Story of Little Babaji or the somewhat simple-minded tigers, as characterized by Jerry Pinkney in Julius Lester's Sam and the Tigers, Bing's villains are ferocious, often towering above Little Black Sambo or tugging at the boy's pants with bared teeth. Still, Little Black Sambo maintains his composure and never seems frightened. The mood here may be more somber than Marcellino's or Lester's versions, but the hero looks triumphant as he walks away in his new outfit, none the worse for his trade. Ages 5-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The late 19th century tale of the little black boy who meets a tiger while taking a walk in his beautiful new clothes became a popular classic despite illustrations that unfortunately reflected particularly insulting racist caricatures. The satisfying story of Sambo's final triumph, lost in controversy over the years, has been rescued for young readers only recently by Fred Marcellino's re-imaging in India as The Story of Little Babaji and Jerry Pinkney's revision, Sam and the Tigers. Bing re-invents here one of his childhood favorites. As in his earlier Casey at the Bat and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, he incorporates faux documents and historic photographs on the non-text pages to create a context for more profound appreciation. The book itself simulates an aging volume with yellowing pages, broken binding, and a jacket/cover slashed by tiger claws. The large format allows him to create framed double-page scenes which depict ancient Indian ruins and a lush grassy landscape; the naturalistic manner emphasizes the sunny brightness and the powerful big cats. This is a theatrical creation that encourages us to enter the fantasy of our appealing young hero to share his emotions. Extensive notes fill in background. 2003, Handprint, Ages 4 to 9.
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4-Despite the controversy surrounding Bannerman's racially insensitive choice of names and style of illustration for her 1899 book, Little Black Sambo perseveres in print and in the memories of adults who encountered the tale as children. Whereas Julius Lester (Sam and the Tigers [Dial, 1996]) casts Sam as a hero of the American South, and Fred Marcellino places The Story of Little Babaji (HarperCollins, 1996) in India, Bing affirms Bannerman's text and the incongruities inherent in fantasy. His African child lives in India where those infamous tigers want to eat him up-until each receives a portion of his new outfit. This is vintage Bing. The book has a weathered look, including the illusion of ripped seams and folded, yellowed pages. The danger, however, is palpable from the outset: the linen and gilt cover bears the deep, jagged imprint of a claw. Each double-page painting is framed in black and infused with golden light. The glow emanates from the sun, the tigers, the domes-foreshadowing the brilliance of that "lovely melted butter." Pen and ink are applied meticulously to skin, fur, and landscape, creating a rich overall texture and depth; the areas of unadulterated color provide the magical aura. Endpapers decorated with newspaper clippings, postcards, maps, shadow puppets, and other realia provide an in-depth history of the story and the particulars of this version. Some adults will no doubt continue to debate the use of Sambo. Children will be dazzled and delighted by the turn of events depicted here.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The most controversial children's picture book in history is richly resurrected with truly sumptuous illustrations in a gorgeous oversized format. Bing retains Bannerman's original text and names, but replaces the stereotypical characteristics with a handsome, tawny-skinned Sambo, and dresses Black Mumbo in a sari and Black Jumbo in a turban. In a note on the front endpapers, Bing relates how he worked for 20 years to illustrate his favorite childhood story. Amid the beautiful, etched-line textures, sun-kissed colors, and lush greenery, the magnificent tigers not only steal Sambo's clothes but also steal the visual show. Fascinating focal points create dramatic perspectives (a tiger viewed between Sambo's knees) and cinematic close-ups. The bordered spreads appear as if on parchment and end-page collages intriguingly display old postcards, maps, and items of the times. A lengthy note by the publisher on the story's history and publication provides important context. Exceptional in every detail: a classic story respectfully revitalized to a new grandeur-one it deserves. Simply superb. (Picture book. 3-7)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.00(w) x 5.37(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Helen Bannerman (1862-1946) was born in Scotland. The daughter of a chaplain who was posted to foreign countries, she lived for over thirty years in India. She married a doctor in the Indian Medical Service, and they had two daughters. The Story Of Little

Christopher Bing Christopher Bing, whose first book, "Casey at the Bat," was named a 2001 Caldecott Honor Book, lives with his wife and three children in Lexington, Massachusetts, in a house directly on the Freedom Trail, the route on which Paul Revere rode on that fateful night of April 18th, two hundred twenty-six years ago.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Story of Little Black Sambo 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some people look for anything negative or a reason to holler about racism. Even Huck Finn, a wonderful nonracist story, has received a bum rap. Books were written in the time they are set,and LITTLE BLACK SAMBO is a wonderful story that I've enjoyed since I was a child. I am African American, and I find nothing offensive about this story. READ THIS STORY, ALL PEOPLES, AND ENJOY!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This ebook is a scan of a collorfully illustrated, pre-1910, children's book that actually contains two short stories. The scan must have been edited since the one reviewer who complained OCR errors made the ebook unreadable. There are few such errors now. Except for the first sentence of each story, I did not notice any intrusive errors. Some of the illustrations are not as well located as they would be in the hardcopy, but this ebook still benefits from their inclusion. Unfortunately, illustrations that include a black person are based on stereotypes that, although based on a one-time reality, are now considered unflattering at best. The first tale is "Little Black Sambo," a delightful fantasy about a quick-witted black boy, his loving parents, and what happens to four tigers who originally wanted to eat the boy. The story is now considered politically incorrect if not downright racist, but there is nothing in the text itself that would result in such a judgement. The problem is that people ended up using the name Sambo in a deragotory manner. With more than 50 years of such name use/abuse, it is no wonder that the story is now thought of in the same manner as the name. The second tale in the book is a retelling, for children, of the story of Topsy's childhood from "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Enough said for those familiar with the original. This ebook is a great snapshot of children's literature in the USA circa 1910.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Practically impossible to read this eBook because the scan has never been reviewed and edited. Way too many uncorrected OCR errors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JudithAR More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading the full history of this wonderful story of a young boy outwitting the tiger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Little Black Sambo is a small, cute little book and I first read it when I was really young. I checked it out at the library every time that I went there. Then the library told me that their copy was lost or out of print. So I tried to find it at other libraries but I had no luck. It is my favorite book in the whole world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Was the very first book I borrowed from a public library in 1980.It was a story I have never forgotten and it will always be my favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
While The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman has proven to be a much loved classic by many readers, you should exercise caution when preparing to read it to young children. The storyline is fairly basic ¿ Little Black Sambo is pursued by tigers in the jungle, and in order to appease them, he gives each of them an article of clothing. Then, the tigers end up fighting with each other, and Little Black Sambo goes home and eats pancakes. The plot seems harmless, but it is the negative undertones of the book that create its controversy. The term `sambo¿ carries the heavy weight of controversy itself; during slavery, it was an extremely negative and derogatory term used for African-American slaves, labeling them as shiftless, lazy, listless, and, quite frankly, dumb. This word has carried its controversy ever since the days of slavery, and it is still considered a very offensive term to use toward African-Americans. Because of this, allowing children to read a book where the main character¿s name is Sambo introduces them to this negative term that should not even be in their vocabulary. Doing so runs the risk of having children deem all African-Americans as `sambo¿ without understanding the term, thus creating racial controversy. In addition, the illustrations in the book do not portray African-Americans in a good light; rather, they portray quite barbaric and primitive characters that perpetuate many racial stereotypes. Overall, I suggest holding off on having children read this book until they are old enough to understand concepts such as slavery, racism, and stereotypes.