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Little Black Sambo (1899)

by Helen Bannerman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Little Black Sambo

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1214118,196 (3.7)32
A retelling of the well-known tale in which a little black boy finally outwits the succession of tigers that want to eat him.
  1. 00
    The Story of Little Babaji by Fred Marcellino (buddingnaturalist)
    buddingnaturalist: An updated edition with new illustrations and Indian names for the characters.
  2. 00
    Sam and the Tigers; A New Telling of 'Little Black Sambo' by Julius Lester (buddingnaturalist)
    buddingnaturalist: A retelling by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
  3. 00
    Little Britches and the Rattlers by Eric A. Kimmel (buddingnaturalist)
    buddingnaturalist: A cowgirl keeps giving items of her clothing away to rattlesnakes to keep them from "swallering" her up.
  4. 00
    Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett (buddingnaturalist)
    buddingnaturalist: A girl keeps giving items of her clothing away to trolls to keep them from stealing her dog.

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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
As a child, I loved this story. I admired the boy at the centre of the story. He had huge courage in the face of great danger. He was clever and outwitted his assailants. He was well loved by his mother and father. He was proud of his beautiful clothes and shoes. I wanted a pair of crimson soled shoes so much. Best of all he got to eat as many pancakes as he liked.

I wanted to be brave and clever, just like "Little Black Sambo".

When I became a parent, I wanted to share the joy of this story with my children but it had become difficult to procure. When I did find a copy, I spoke about the changes in language that reflected the changes in societal expectations. I was able to explain why the names of the characters are insulting and unacceptable by today's standards. The book became an historical teaching tool.

Sometimes in reading the story, I add my own embellishments. My children have loved it too.

I have read a few attempts to modernise the story but they do not capture the wonder of the character in the original work.

I still love this story and still read it to children of all ages. ( )
  CeciliaClark | Sep 12, 2023 |
I always thought this was a wonderful book because it showed how smart the little boy was in the end ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
I always thought this was a wonderful book because it showed how smart the little boy was in the end ( )
  drmom62 | Apr 21, 2023 |
Sambo is a South Indian boy who lives with his father and mother,
named Black Jumbo and Black Mumbo, respectively. While out walking,
Sambo encounters four hungry tigers, and he surrenders his colorful
new clothes, shoes and umbrella so that they will not eat him.
The tigers are vain and each thinks that it is better dressed than the others.
They have a massive argument and chase each other around a tree until
they are reduced to a pool of ghee (clarified butter). Sambo recovers
his clothes and goes home, and his father later collects the ghee,
which his mother uses to make pancakes

Helen Brodie Cowan Bannerman (February 25, 1862 – October 13, 1946)
was a Scottish author of children's books.
  CarrieFortuneLibrary | Sep 9, 2022 |
"Oh, wow." I think I said something like that when I saw this little book. I was booking with my friend Chris, something we did on a regular basis and will do again when the virus fades. We make the rounds to several thrift stores and Goodwills in the area.

I grabbed this book for a couple reasons. It has a place in literary history and I actually remember reading the story as a kid. I can still picture the tigers racing around the tree.

But seeing the title made me immediately wonder about the content and whether it would be acceptable today.

The preface explains the author made up this story for her daughters while on a train trip. The preface says:

"Once upon a time there was an English lady in India, where black children abound and tigers are everyday affairs, who had two little girls. To amuse these little girls she used now and then to invent stories, for which, being extremely talented, she also drew and coloured the pictures."

The book was first published in 1899 and was poplar for a long time. The book then actually praised for presenting black characters as heroes. (The young boy was very brave and did outsmart the tigers.)

In the mid-20th century, the book was blasted for the names of the characters and the illustrations. Apparently major revisions have been made to the book since this edition. By the way, I found an online auction site where this edition sold for $162.50.

When I lived in Joliet in the '70s there was a restaurant called Sambos. At the time I felt the name was inappropriate.
I found this bit of history:

"Sambo's was a popular US restaurant chain of the 1950s through 1970s that borrowed characters from the book (including Sambo and the tigers) for promotional purposes, although the Sambo name was originally a blend of the founders' names and nicknames: Sam (Sam Battistone) and Bo (Newell Bohnett).

"For a period in the late 1970s, some locations were renamed "The Jolly Tiger". The controversy about the book led to accusations of racism that contributed to the 1,117-restaurant chain's demise in the early 1980s. Images inspired by the book (now considered by some racially insensitive) were common interior decorations in the restaurants. Though portions of the original chain were renamed "No Place Like Sam's" to try to forestall closure, all but the original restaurants in Santa Barbara, California, had closed by 1983.

The original location, owned by Battistone's grandson Chad Stevens, existed in Santa Barbara under the name "Sambo's" until June 2020. The name on the original Sambo's sign was temporarily changed to the motto "☮ & LOVE" (where "☮" is the Unicode symbol for "peace,"), due to pressure from the Black Lives Matter group during the George Floyd protests and a separate signature drive that collected thousands of signatures. In July 2020, the restaurant was officially renamed to "Chad's."

So ... lot of history behind this little book. ( )
1 vote LJCain | Mar 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Betsy Hearne (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2004 (Vol. 57, No. 6))
Arguably one of the most controversial books in the history of children’s literature, this century-old story has been criticized for its stereotyped illustrations and for the ongoing racist implications of the derogatory name Sambo. In 1996, artist Fred Marcellino tried to politically correct the narrative by retitling it The Story of Little Babaji (BCCB 9/96) and setting it in India, where it was first written. That same year, the African-American team of author Julius Lester and illustrator Jerry Pinkney sought to redeem the story with a fantastical send-up that capitalized on its strong characters, images, and action (Sam and the Tigers, BCCB 7/96). Now award-winning illustrator Christopher Bing casts the original text in an oversized format complete with antiqued pages, scrapbook-like endpapers that include a reference to support for the project from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and framing pages with a long editor’s note on the book’s background. Bing’s double-page spread compositions pulse with restrained energy and reflect meticulous attention to detail in the Indian flora and fauna and the African human cast, all textured with the effects of an old engraving. The colors that play such a large part in the story--red coat, blue trousers, green umbrella, and purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson linings--are set against black-framed sepia backgrounds that play up the gold of these imperial tigers. While respecting the story’s past, Bing also seems to be mocking it with his back-jacket-flap self-portrait in a colonial sahib-helmet. Yet there’s no question that he has empowered the tale with fresh individuality and dynamic book design. There’s also no question that many children respond breathlessly to this story of a little boy who rescues his fine new duds from some fierce predators. For those who are comfortable reading aloud or retelling the story of Little Black Sambo, Bing’s pictures will project--to a group or an individual--its fast pace and infectious rhythm with visual bravado. Review Code: R -- Recommended
added by kthomp25 | editThe Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Betsy Hearne (Feb 1, 2004)

» Add other authors (52 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bannerman, Helenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bing, ChristopherIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
EulalieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michell, Gladys TurleyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piper, WattyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
SuzanneIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, Florence WhiteIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Once upon a time there was a little black boy, and his name was Little Black Sambo.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English


A retelling of the well-known tale in which a little black boy finally outwits the succession of tigers that want to eat him.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Project Gutenberg, illustrated by Florence White Williams: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17824/...

Removed from classrooms and school library shelves by the Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1956) board of education after the board received complaints from several groups that "the popular book was a cause of mental suffering to Negroes in particular and children in general." Removed from a school library in New York City (1959) after a black resident challenged the book as racially derogatory. The book was eventually restored to library shelves. Removed from the open shelves of the Lincoln, Nebr. school system (1964) on the orders of the School Superintendent because of the inherent racism of the book. The superintendent relocated the book on the "Reserved" shelves, with a note explaining that while it was not "a part of the instructional program, it will be available to those who want to read it as optional material." Banned in Montgomery, Ala. schools (1971) because the book is "inappropriate" and "not in keeping with good human relations." The Montreal-based Canadian National Black Coalition mobilized efforts to remove the book from school and library shelves (1972).
In Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, teachers ordered students to tear from school readers the pages that contained the story. The book was banned entirely in New Brunswick. Removed from the Dallas, Tex. school libraries (1972) because it "distorts a child's view of black people." Attacked in English schools and libraries (1972) because it symbolized "the kind of dangerous and obsolete books that must go."
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