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

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  225 ratings  ·  55 reviews
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 rev...more
Paperback, 40 pages
Published August 28th 2000 by Puffin (first published September 1st 1996)
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First things first - this is, as the title makes clear, a retelling of Little Black Sambo. If you're interested in a retelling that's closer to the original (it's the same text, but with modern illustrations and different names) try The Tale of Little Babaji.

Having read the original text of Little Black Sambo (which is hardly banned - you can find it at Project Gutenberg online), and the text of Little Babaji, I can see why people liked it. Aside from the unfortunate names and illustrations, it'...more
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Sep 25, 2007 Demetri Broxton-Santiago rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lover's of fun Kid Stories
This is one of the greatest children's books ever written. I read it to my son at least once a week. Sam, the main character, lives in Sam-sam-samara where everyone's name is Sam. But no one ever gets confused about which Sam someone is talking to. Anyway, Sam is getting ready to start school, so his parents-- Sam and Sam, take Sam school clothes shopping. Well, little Mr. Sam chooses a wardrobe that has enough color to shame the brightest rainbow.
On his way to school, Sam encounters a series...more
I remembered this story from my childhood. It was always a favorite and while there was a period of time it was considered controversial, I never recall having those feelings that seemed to be attached to it. To me, it was just a wonderful story. I was delighted to see this new version by Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney and found as much fun reading it now as I did then. The two page spread of the tigers is worth the price of the book and of course, they turned into butter. I knew that.
Cheryl in CC NV
With all due respect, this is not my favorite version. I do appreciate the author's note, and the land of Sam-sam-sa-mara where India, Africa, and animals that talk live together. And I appreciate that the boy chose a jacket 'as red as a happy heart' and an umbrella 'green as a satisfied mind' etc. But I don't understand why the mother is dressed like a Mammy, or why the tigers have no personality. And it just didn't enchant me. That's my opinion. Ymmv of course.
Charlene McCormack
The book was fine but the forward by Jerry Pinkney and afterward written by Julius Lester made the book for me. They shared their history of the book and why they wanted a new version.
Sara Angel
Wow!!! this is a great one to read to 4th and 5th graders after discussion of civil rights/sterotypes/racism. I love this book!!! I love Pinkney!
Good memories of "Sambo" from childhood. Enjoyed this "accepted" retelling.
An amazing retelling of the traditional "Little Black Sambo." Lester and Pinkney, both African-Americans, bring a cultural understanding to this troubled story. In retrospect, it was mostly adults who had issues with the book. Children enjoyed the tigers and the pancakes at the end of the story.

Lester renamed the main character from "Sambo," a traditionally derogatory name for black people. In choosing "Sam" he made the character much more approachable for young readers. But the main story stays...more
Rebecca Hipps
Julius Lester retells the classic story of “Little Black Sambo,” in “Sam and the Tigers.” Between the humorous and imaginative story of a land where animals and people interact and communicate together and Pinkney’s artistic illustrations, Sam’s world comes alive in this picturebook. As I read this book, I was taken back to my own childhood, where I was surrounded by stories and imagination. This story reminded me of times when my self-selected colorful clothes expressed my feelings of the day a...more
“Sam and the Tigers” by Julius Lester was another book about fantasy and how students can use their imagination to escape reality. I think reading fantasy book is great way for students to see into other worlds of fantasy and take away something from these genres of books. I don’t know if it’s because their not my favorite genre of books or if I wasn’t too fascinated by the storyline but this book didn’t really do much for me. I think as a child, kids enjoy the silliness of how the characters in...more
Audra Sein
Sam and the Tigers is a picturebook written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It recounts the story of Sam, a boy who lives in a land where animals and people work together, and every person s named Sam.

The first thing I noticed about this picturebook was that is horizontally oriented. This makes me think that the setting is important to this story.

The second thing I noticed was that the illustration on the cover wraps around to show both Sam and the Tigers, the main character...more
Elizabeth Sousa
Sam and the Tigers, written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, retells the story of a young boy named Sam, who buys the flashiest outfit of all time, only to use that very outfit to outsmart some menacing tigers. I was immediately drawn to this book because of Sam's brightly-colored clothing, shiny shoes, and green striped socks. Any book that features a character who wears clothes like that grabs my interest instantaneously.

I read the paperback copy, so I was not able to thorou...more
In the book "Sam and the Tigers" by Julius Lester a boy named Sam is trying to prevent Tigers from eating him. This is a creative retelling of the story "Little Black Sambo" as a boy named . The hidden Tigers are seen all over the cover which is covered in the jungle scenery from the location of the story. On the back cover you can see the Tigers hiding in the green tropical leaves as well as wrapped around the trees. On the front cover the title is written in a fun playful font. Sam is written...more
Sarah Sammis
Every book, every story, has multiple contexts. There's a context when it's written. A context when it's read and sometimes a context develops as a story ages and people, right or wrong, appropriate the story to their needs. Little Black Sambo (1899) by Helen Bannerman is a story with a sorted past and now, right or wrong, many racist connotations.

When I was a toddler in the 1970s, Sambo was one of the picture books I wanted read to me over and over again. To me, Sambo was a brave boy who was st...more
This is a retelling of Little Black Sambo, that "classic" piece of racist drivel. This book is a vast improvement mostly because of the illustrations, which in the original are gross stereotypes and caricatures. The problem I have with this, like LBS, is that the story itself is just weird--tigers melt into a puddle of butter and the human characters--here, all named Sam--eat plates of pancakes. It's just bizarre, even within the context of children's literature, to eat melted tigers.

There really is no one out there who writes picture books the way that Julius Lester does. He has a terrific way with words, and a grasp of the use of metaphor and simile that creates an entirely new sort of picture book experience.

Anyone familiar with Helen Bannerman's Little Black Sambo will have a good idea about what's going to happen in this "new telling" of the classic story from 1899. The resourcefulness of the boy Sam as he outwits a group of tigers is the main focus of Sam and the Tig...more
Lisa Hartman
Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney is set in the town of Sam-sam-sa-mara where everyone is named Sam. This story follows a little boy named Sam who buys a fine and bright outfit for the first day of school. But on his way to school, Sam ran into several tigers. The only way he could keep them from eating him was to trade his clothes for his life. Soon he had lost all his new clothes and was left in his undergarments. He would have to think on his feet in order t...more
Mar 14, 2014 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: children who loves stories and mothers who love morals in their stories
Recommended to Karen by: Logan pulled it off the shelf at the library
Cute story - uses a little boy and animals to teach about vanity. It is supposed to be a retelling of "one of the most controversial stories in children's literature." Whatever! The people are black, the animals talk and sell clothes. I don't see a problem.
This is one of my favorite stories, which was called in my childhood, Little Black Sambo. I love Julius Lester's version in which everyone has the name "Sam" and they all live in a mythical place called Sam-sam-sa-mara rather than in India where I thought it was first placed. The illustrations of Jerry Pinkney's are beautiful; I particularly love the pancake breakfast at the end with the "neighbors" -- an elephant, a giraffe, a cat, even Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox. Both Lester and Pinkney add note...more
Araceli Esparza
I enjoyed learning about the back story to this folktale... super interesting read.
Brilliant, hilarious, and glorious to look at. I was lucky enough to hear Julius Lester read this aloud to a group of mesmerised children and adults: an unforgettable delight. It's a terrible shame (and a missed opportunity for his publisher) that Julius never made an audio version of this wonderful book in his own powerful voice. Of the many collaborations between Julius and Jerry Pinkney, this is my favorite.
An imaginative retelling of Little Black Sambo, with great illustrations. My only quibble was with the characters all being named Sam. At first I thought, this is brilliant! This is so folkloric or archetypal or something--it's like Brer Rabbit being all rabbits, or Brer Wolf representing all wolves. Sam is all people! But when I read it aloud to the kids, they were confused over which Sam was speaking or acting.
An attempt at reclaiming the racist legacy from Little Black Sambo. I'm not sure how successful it is as far as subverting the racist history of this particular story. But what it does achieve is level of absurdity that perhaps recasts the original in an absurdist light.

Craft moves-- great use of similes and metaphors
clever use of language
love the descriptions: "as purple as a love that would last forever" "as yellow as tomorrow" "shining like promises that are always kept" "as green as a satisfied mind"...and the details in the illustrations (faces in the leaves and trees, etc)...and the weird ending, tigers turning into butter turned into pancakes...amusing and delightful :)
Ebony Hargett
This book was a little different. It has animal characters that do things like humans. The dialogue is storytelling slang and is enjoyable to read. I would use this book to entertain my students and could use it to teach students how to add slang dialogue to their writing. There are a lot of examples in this book.
This book was truly exceptional. The storytelling was rich and full of strong figurative language, and the research done to bring the story to life in this vibrant retelling was equally impressive. I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for strong similes as well as a good story.
This retelling of "Little Black Sambo" stays pretty true to the original text, but the illustrations in this one are outstanding. I am happy that Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney created this version of the original story so that children today can have a chance to love the story that I did as a child.
Jodi Young
This is a story about a boy losing his brand new and colorful clothes to a pack of lions. This boys determination got his clothes back. This story could help with teaching fact or fiction, colors and problem solving. Students could write about different ways they would have gotten their clothes back.
This was kind of fun. I don't think I've ever heard "Little Black Sambo", and it makes me want to check that one out now. I liked the different style of speaking and we all thought it was funny/quirky that everyone was named Sam.
I love these illustrations, however I think I like the text of The Story of Little Babaji better. Would like to buy.
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I was born on January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1941-1954 I lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and from 1954-1961 in Nashville, Tennesse. I received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.

In 1961 I moved to New York City where I had a talk radio show on WBAI FM from 1966-1973, hosted a television talk show on WNET from 1969-1971.

Since 1968 I have published 43 books. Among the awards...more
More about Julius Lester...
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