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The Story of Little Black Sambo
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The Story of Little Black Sambo

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  4,367 Ratings  ·  299 Reviews
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 autho ...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published January 1st 1923 by HarperCollins (first published 1899)
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Matthew O'Leary Before I give my opinions on these, I should point out that I am white and do not have children. So take my opinions with a grain of salt.

I don't…more
Before I give my opinions on these, I should point out that I am white and do not have children. So take my opinions with a grain of salt.

I don't think 21st century Black children would consider it offensive, mostly because the idea of "Sambo" is so antiquated. Their parents, however, knowing a little bit more about Black history might have more issues with it. I don't remember Sambo portrayed as a buffoon, but more as a clever kid. I think the central idea of the book is "clever ideas can come from unlikely people" which is racist in the sense that it begins with the supposition that a Black child would be unintelligent.

It's certainly not a hateful racism, written with the intent to disparage Blacks, but it does still seem to come from a place of ignorance.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Manny
Jul 24, 2010 Manny marked it as to-read
Three Cautionary Tales About Etymology

When you work with language, you soon learn to be sceptical about apparently obvious explanations for where words come from. I was reminded of this fact earlier today. In the shower, I had what I fondly believed to be a minor eureka moment concerning the origin of the word "metrosexual". We'd been watching episodes from Series 1 of Sex and the City (by the way, these are infinitely better than the recent movie). Now "metrosexual" is clearly a combination of
...more
Lisa Vegan
I just saw a Goodreads friend rate & review this, and it sparked my memory.

I absolutely loved this story as a small child, and to me it was about a boy who created a wonderful outcome for himself and who was the hero of the story. He’s intelligent, capable, creative, and very clever, and those pancakes were enticing and enviable.

It’s been close to 50 years since I had this story read to me or read it myself. As a 2 to 4 or 5 or 6 year old (1955-1959) I was not aware of any objectionable con
...more
Zoë
Feb 19, 2015 Zoë rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book 18/100 for 2015

This is the updated and more PC version of Little Black Sambo, which I also had to read for my class. I loved the illustrations in this version and I really don't think Bannerman was attempting to be as blatantly racist as it seems, but now after our class discussion, that's all I can think about.
Zoë
Mar 01, 2015 Zoë rated it it was ok
Book 17/100 for 2015

So we had to read this book and the updated version of it for my Children's Lit class and WOW it's super duper racist! Its history is pretty interesting, though and our discussion was eye-opening.
Bob Havey
May 25, 2012 Bob Havey rated it really liked it
Read the Simon & Schuster (1948) version back when I was a kid. No one thought it was racist, but that's only because it isn't. I bought a copy for my collection several years ago. Any book that's banned is worth having.
Danny
Oct 11, 2012 Danny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s
Of course, these days a book like Little Black Sambo is forbidden, being politically incorrect; never the less, it is a book that was read to me when I was a child, and which I enjoyed.
In the tale, a boy named Sambo outwits a group of hungry tigers; the little boy has to sacrifice his new red coat and his new blue trousers and his new purple shoes to four tigers, including one who wears his shoes on his ears, but Sambo outwits these predators and returns safely home, where he eats 169 pancakes
...more
Jessica
Apr 05, 2016 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
Gorgeous illustrations. Historical Racist Connotation.

This book tries to "correct" the damage done by the American racist version of Little Black Sambo. I learned from the back notes the whole historical aspect and how society (with the help of a lot of people before my time) helped turn a beautiful oral tale into a racial representation of lazy, mixed, African Americans.

I grew up with the knowledge of how racist Little Black Sambo was, and how during my mom/dad's time (60s) we fought against
...more
Serena
Jul 04, 2007 Serena added it
Shelves: kids
I grew up reading this book. It was one of my absolute favourites. I never saw the prejudice touch. I just liked the idea of the tiger(s?) turning to butter from running so fast.
Not until some years ago in a New Orleans bookstore where it was labled under something like 'racist books for kids' did I ever have an inkling it might offend. Shows just how oblivious I can be.

Beatrice Gormley
As a child with no awareness of racism, I loved Little Black Sambo. My sister and brother and I would act the story out, especially the part where the tigers ran around the tree until they melted into a puddle of butter. I never recognized the discrepancy between the setting of the story (India) and the illustrations (showing the characters as Africans). But when my own children were ready for picture books, I was embarrassed by Little Black Sambo, and I didn't read it to them. Later, I was thri ...more
Kate
Sep 17, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it
Yes, it's really, really racist. But when I was little, my Grammy read it to me all the time and I loved it. It's probably not a great book to read to kids now, and I'm sure it's out of print, but I used to love it. I was a little kid. I think it was one of the first books I learned to read.
Like a lot of the other reviewers have said, I thought the little boy was clever and that tigers really could turn into butter if they ran fast. Little kids don't see it as racist. I don't know what happened
...more
Swankivy
Dec 01, 2013 Swankivy rated it liked it
There was something incredibly appealing about this book. I loved the story of the resourceful and brave child going out and outwitting tigers, and I have no idea what was so compelling about his articles of clothing being distributed amongst the vain tigers, but it just captured my attention as a child. And most who have read the book will understand why it made me hungry for pancakes at the end! I had a little trouble not feeling sorry for the tigers, but I rationalized it by reminding myself ...more
Squire
Dec 17, 2013 Squire rated it it was amazing
This was my favorite story growing up. LBS running around the tree chased by the tiger until it turned into butter was the craziest thing I'd heard about (at the time) and it always made me laugh. It also made me unafraid of meeting any tigers because I knew how to get rid of them! To those of you who cry foul and racism--shame on you. This is one of the great chlidhood stories and the story that started me on a life-long love of reading.
Devlin Scott
Same illustrations I remember as a child. Brilliant classic.

Often touted as a banned book (due to the character's names), this is a wonderful classic for children. A fun out-loud reading experience to share with your child. Charming!
Kevan
Jul 16, 2008 Kevan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-books
Although it is now not politically correct, I loved this book, my mom used to read it to me over and over. I always thought it funny that tigers could turn into butter.
Agne
4.5 out of 5
The same endearing story (Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Black Sambo) with the new characters' names and GORGEOUS illustrations!
Beth
Not sure how to rate this. Loved it as a kid - but seeing it through an adult's eyes makes me realize how racist it is/was. No rating given.
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Racist - Phhhhttt! I love pancakes :O
Diane
Sep 29, 2016 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-ya, re-read
I've read this to my son before, we have it in a collection of Golden Books bedtime stories.

It's never been my favorite story, but I can see why it is popular with the little ones. Repetition is always great. But Bannerman is no Dr. Seuss and I found it tedious to read aloud.

I had no idea about its checkered history, considering it's been PC-ified. As it is in this version, it's completely innocuous and there is nothing objectionable about it.
Cindi
Jun 24, 2011 Cindi rated it liked it

What makes a book racist? Is it the text or the illustrations? A combination of the two? And does a book once deemed racist have a place in children's fiction in an historical context? Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman is a book that has been called racist, been challenged by thousands, and even inspired the bankruptcy of a series of restaurants called 'Sambo's."

Whether this book in it's original form or any of the updated versions is racist, is up to the individual to decide. However, the b
...more
Michael
This is fun story, although a little terrifying since four tigers are trying to eat the main character. He delays the inevitable by giving them all his belongings, and they end up fighting each other because of their own vanity instead of eating the boy. It has two surprise endings, one for the tigers, and one for the family at dinner.

I liked this story particularly because of the Indian setting, with authentically-named Indian characters and cultural references. There is a note at the end of th
...more
Amy
My niece and nephew loved The Story of Little Babaji! The illustrations in this book are just fantastic, and the expressions on the faces of the tigers throughout the book are such fun to look at! The kids laughed at each tiger as it strode around in an article of Babaji's fine clothing, and they laughed as Babaji taunted the vain and stubborn tigers while he took his beautiful clothes back.

I was a little worried that the kids might not be up for this book. The story is a little long, and at sev
...more
Poppy
Dec 22, 2015 Poppy rated it liked it
I've never read a physical copy of this book, but it used to be one of my favorite stories that my grandmother told me when I was little. Back then, any potentially racist content went over my head. I (a white American) just found it cool that a little boy outsmarted a cluster of tigers. And even cooler (though kind of horrifying now that I think about it) that those tigers melted into butter.

What a strange but memorable story this is. And apparently forever lodged in my memory.

I've not read any
...more
Nabila Tabassum Chowdhury
বইটি রেট করতে পারলাম না।

-> যদি বরণবাদ বিবেচনায় আনি তাহলে এই বইটার রেটিং নিরঘাত একতারা।
-> যদি মজার গলপটাকে বিবেচনায় রেটিং পাঁচতারা না হয়ে যায় না।

তাই রেটিং অমিমাংসিত।


->বরণবাদকে কেন বিবেচনায় আনবো?
--->'সামবো'র মত একটি বরনবাদী শবদ এবং বরণবাদী ডরয়িংগুলোকে বিবেচনায় না আনাটা সমভব না। এগুলোর মাঝে বরণবাদ এমবেডেড।

->বরনবাদ কে কেন বিবেচনায় আনবো না?
---> আমি যে ভারসনটি পড়েছি সেখানে সামবো শবদটি এবং বরণবাদী ডরয়িংগুলো উপসথিত থাকলেও সারবিক উপসথাপনায় বা এমবিয়েনসে কোথাও কৃষণকায় জাতিকে খাটো করার চে
...more
Bobby
Nov 03, 2008 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Based on a 100-year old story, this book has been updated and it's original (racist, per report) illustrations have been replaced. I never saw the original illustrations so can't comment on that, but the illustrations in this book are great! As is the story, which is long enough to be appropriate for 4-8 year olds I'd guess. With a little bit of fear (there are tigers threatening to eat the hero), some cleverness (how he outwits the tigers), and a lot of whimsy, the charm of the story transcends ...more
Sarah Mayor Cox
Fabulously illustrated editon of the original version of the Little Black Sambo story. The delicate and whismsical watercolour illustrations match the tone of the story so well, and if you can get someone with an authentic Indian accent to read it, you will be transported by this marvellous old story which tells of the ridiculous nature of human pride.
Sherry (sethurner)
It has been ages and ages since I read Little Black Sambo, and whie I know that it has been deemed politically incorrect, the very title being an insult, as a child I loved the Indian boy with his umbrella and the tigers chasing around the tree. I smile just thinking of all the colors in this little story.
Emma
I think this would have been a fun story but I got my copy from the library and big chunks of pages were torn out. First, we were introduced to Babaji. Then he has clothes. Then he has no clothes. Then tigers have each other's tails in their mouths. Then there are lots of pancakes! The end! /headscratch
Kat
Dec 24, 2007 Kat rated it really liked it
Go beyond the racist disaster that this book became and go back to its roots in India. This was written about India by a writer from Scotland. The little purple slippers are still a hoot. It always made me sad that other publishers ruined this story and then a stupid restaurant sold pancakes with a twist. sigh.
Malika Bourne
Aug 22, 2011 Malika Bourne rated it it was amazing
I haven't read this in years, but I remember it so well. I check3d it out often from the libraray when I was young. At the time I thought it was the best book ever. I havn't seen a copy in years, but I know that some pre-school won't allow it becuase they belive it is stero typical. My favorite part was when the Sambo got to eat tiger pancakes.
Shelleen
Mar 24, 2009 Shelleen rated it liked it
Shelves: read-with-kids
Grandma Weight had this book. It was the only children's book I remember reading at her house. I almost always read it every time we went there. I do not have the slightest clue how old it was but it must have bee old because of all the yellow pages.
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Little Black sambo 9 56 Feb 03, 2013 02:03AM  
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Helen Bannerman (born Brodie Cowan Watson) was the Scottish author of a number of children's books, the most famous being Little Black Sambo. She was born in Edinburgh and, because women were not admitted as students into British Universities, she sat external examinations set by the University of St. Andrews and attained the qualification of LLA. She lived for a good proportion of her life in Ind ...more
More about Helen Bannerman...

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