Little Black Sambo vs. Sam and the Tigers

Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. 1925.

I have this story in a set of old blue storybooks from the 20s. My grandmother read it to me when I was a girl. It was my absolute favorite then, and I still enjoy it now. It’s considered to be absurdly racist, primarily the stereotyped illustrations, but it’s a great story! I would much rather have my children read The Story of Little Babaji, however, since the tale itself is Indian originally.

Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester. 1996.

A brilliant rewrite of Little Black Sambo. What child can not laugh at Sam, Sam and Sam? With clever and lively illustrations, it’s a modern classic. Not to harp on The Story of Little Babaji, but I'm going to harp a bit. That little book captures the elegant simplicity of the Sambo story, but returns it to a more accurate context. So, if you're looking for a funny spin on Sambo, Sam and the Tigers will do fine. If you're looking for a culturally sensitive replacement for Sambo, I'd go with Babaji.