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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  ·  Rating details ·  376 Ratings  ·  87 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 reve ...more
Paperback, 48 pages
Published August 28th 2000 by Puffin Books (first published September 1st 1996)
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Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture
Sam and his parents (Also named Sam, as is everyone in this imaginary land) live in a world where everyone lives in harmony, humans and animals together. Which turns out to mean that animals wear clothes and run shops, anthropomorphically. Despite this asserted harmony, tigers still eat people, apparently. Um, are you sure you thought that concept through, sir?
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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'
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
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.
Sara Angel
May 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
Charlene McCormack
Apr 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
Good memories of "Sambo" from childhood. Enjoyed this "accepted" retelling.
Davin Thompson-williams
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sam had terrible fashion sense. It is a great story. Sam bested the tigers. There were many cameo appearances from different characters. The book was easy to read and enjoyable.
Lynn  Davidson
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
As the title says, this is a retelling of Little Black Sambo. It's told with humour, such as there was a place called Sam-sam-sa-mara in which everyone was named Sam. Everyone, with no confusion!

Sam got new clothes for school, very colourful, beautiful clothes, from the animal vendors. On his way to school, and dressed in his finest, he was approached by tigers - one at a time - threatening to eat him. He gave each one a piece of his fine new apparel, including his umbrella. Then he came up with
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This book too me seems a bit controversial in the authors attempt to lift the blame off white people for the racist origin of this story. Lester talks about in the epilogue of the book, the story not being meant to be fun and fanciful letting the main character Sam be free of the prejudice most people associate and letting the story be a fantastical and cute tale with a young black boy as a positive and happy hero of the story. I do understand where the author is coming from in terms of letting ...more
Sarah Sammis
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is about a "new telling of the controversial story of sambo". Sam is a little black boy who lives in a world where humans and animals all get along. All humans are named Sam and the animals were called Mr. Elephant or Mrs. Monkey. His escape starts when he goes with his mom and dad to a swap meet for school clothes. He selects the loudest in colored clothes that he could find like a red jacket, a yellow shirt, purple pants, silver shoes and a green umbrella. On his way to the first day ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A perfect, thrilling delight!
Audra Sein
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Rebecca Hipps
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
“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
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
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.

Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
I found this displayed in my local library and couldn't believe it. Late last year, I attended a seminar of multicultural literature focusing on children's literature and "Little Black Sambo", the story this book is based on, was cited as unforgivably reinforcing racial stereotypes. Knowing that I couldn't understand why anyone would try to update that story, but here this one is.
It turns out that this retelling is done by an acclaimed pair of African-American author and illustrator. There is an
Lisa Hartman
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kaytlyn Witcher
Sep 18, 2015 added it
Shelves: folk
Sam and the Tigers: A Retelling of 'Little Black Sambo’ is a book is about Sam lives in the town of Sam-sam-sa-mara. Everyone in this town is named Sam even the animals. All the animals and people live and work together. One morning on his way to school he is stopped by a tiger who was very hungry. Instead of the tiger eating him, little Sam makes a deal with him and that overcomes all hungry tigers he comes close to.

Classroom: I would have this book in my classroom on my bookshelf. I would nev
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Halle Stout
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not sure how the original is but this retelling was humorous and cute. It's about a boy named Sam who goes shopping with his parents one in the market and stores around his neighborhood (which animals all run them), he goes to school the next day in his new gear and tigers continuously want to eat him. To appease the tigers he gives them his clothes which they take and state how fine they look. Soon Sam has no clothes and the tigers fight about how they look better than the other. They fight, gr ...more
Sarah Adamson
This is a pretty awesome storybook. It retells another famous story mentioned throughout the reviews here so you can see it as a modern adaptation. We loved it. We loved that everyone is called Sam. It confused my daughter at first but with the help of me doing different voices, it worked great!!
A boy wants independence to choose his own clothes for his first day at school and his parents allow it. He chooses such bright clothes that his parents have to don sunglasses. On the way to school, he
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 reveal at the heart of this story a lively and charming tale of a little boy who triumphs over several hungry tigers. "Lester and ...more
Alice Porter
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading this book, I had to do a little research on the origin and history of the original story, which was first published in 1899. This is a controversial story because of the stereotypical portrayals of "black" people. The cartoons I found that tell the story are very shocking when it comes to the race factor. This version of the story was the most positive that I saw and I liked the illustrations. The author did a great job of spinning the historical stigmas of this folk tale and turni ...more
Sep 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Though I was fascinated to learn that a new version of The Story of Little Black Sambo existed, remade by two Caldecott Honor winning African-American artists, the result was disappointing to me. The tone seemed to shift, sometimes jocular, other times straightforward. But though I didn't like Sam much, the tigers were excellent. I have no quibble at all with the illustrations, in fact I loved them. The text didn't quite seem to match.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Wonderful book illustrated by the 2010 Caldecott Award winner Jerry Pinkney. I met Mr. Pinkney today at our local library's young author program and I really enjoyed his presentation. He actually completed an illustration during the program. I bought a copy of this book and had it autographed for a friend of mine who adopted a child last year and I read it before I handed it over. It is a retelling of Little Black Sambo" and both the story and the illustrations are outstanding. I'll have to get ...more
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.
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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
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