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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,606 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
The classic story by Helen Bannerman of a young Indian lad who meets up with a tiger and turns him into butter. Includes Introduction.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by Chronicle Books (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)
Keith Scholey There are many, many versions of this book (some very very appalling). In the original, the boy is supposed to be Tamil (south Indian - hence the…moreThere are many, many versions of this book (some very very appalling). In the original, the boy is supposed to be Tamil (south Indian - hence the tigers and the ghee) but has a western name (Zambo was originally a term for a person of mixed native-African origins). The author was married to a Raj overlord - to them all 'blacks' (southern Indians can be very dark skinned) were the same. They enjoyed patronising southern Indians - northerners were way too close to Europeans. Little Babaji is indeed a masterpiece. (less)
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Manny
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
Bradley
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, 2017-shelf
Rather more interesting than I thought it would be! And no, I don't know why anyone would think this was racist. The kid pulled a golden apple trick on the four tigers and let them fight amongst themselves, finally getting his clothes back.

I don't know about any of you, but that's a clever move. Briar Rabbit-like. So yeah, I like. :)

Tiger run around the tree, indeed!
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 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
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jessica
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Danny
May 21, 2008 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
Serena
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
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Little Black sambo 9 57 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...