Melanie's Reviews > Sam and the Tigers: A Retelling of 'Little Black Sambo'

Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester
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Dec 22, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: children-s-literature, picture-book, families, clothing, tigers, african-americans, multicultural, caldecott-winning-illustrator
Read in December, 2011

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 the same. Sam needs new clothes and chooses wildly colored apparel. When traveling through the forest, he loses pieces of clothing to hungry, but vain tigers. Finally, when Sam is running around in only his underclothes, he finds the tigers arguing amongst themselves about who is the finest. Sam seizes the moment from the distracted tigers to steal his clothes back. The tigers, however, continue to chase each other around a tree until they have all melted into a pool of butter. Sam scoops some up in a pitcher and takes it home where his mother agrees to have pancakes for dinner!
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