Today’s review is part of my participation in Banned Books Week (Sep 30- Oct 6).
Wikipedia says that The Story of Little Black Sambo was originally released in a series of books for children called “The Dumpy Books for Children.” This makes me laugh.
Today’s review is of a story that has been on many banned books lists- perhaps rightfully so, perhaps not. The real question is, should book content be regulated or sheltered based on political correctness?
Book: Little Black Sambo
Author: Helen Bannerman
Year Published: 1899
Genre: Children’s picture books
Overall Rating: 3 stars
Target Audience: Children
Setting: A small Indian village
Characters: Little Black Sambo, 4 tigers, and his mother.
Plot: Sambo is out for a walk one day, when he runs across four hungry tigers. To prevent the tigers from eating him, he gives each of the tigers one piece of his clothing. The tigers decide that each one is better looking than the other, and get into a fight over who is the most attractive. Sambo climbs into a tree and waits for the tigers to chase each other, which eventually melts them into butter. Sambo takes the butter home and his mother makes pancakes with the tigers.
Thoughts: This book is highly controversial, because many people feel like the story is raciest. They do not like the focus placed on Sambo’s dark skin. Despite the objection to the potentially racist overtones, most people love the story itself. The story has had many renditions over the years, including many titles changes, such as “Little Brave Sambo,” “The Story of Little Babaji,” “The Boy and the Tigers,” and other stories. In fact, “The Story of Little Babaji” was a best seller after its release in 1996.
Personally, I loved this story as a child. I didn’t know it was supposed to be racist. To me, the story was just about a little boy outsmarting some tigers. I loved that the tigers turned into butter at the end of the story when I was a child. I tend to agree with the authors of the new version that nothing is inherently racist about the story. It reminds me of old folk stories that many countries have, and if those are racist, then we are in trouble. At any rate, I don’t believe that the banning of this story is justified, although the title change is probably best.