Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book No. 50.

Sam and the Tigers is a retelling of Helen Bannerman's 1889 classic The Story of Little Black Sambo. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding Little Black Sambo and many deemed the book racist and reminiscent of "darky iconography", as explained by Lester and Pinkney in a note following the story.
Bannerman's 1889 story.
The story centers around a boy who is wearing many brightly colored garbs which attract the attention of several tigers, each of whom make the boy hand over an article so that they can look more impressive than the others. Lester's retelling is second to none, thanks largely to his expressive and poetic language (and it also doesn't hurt that Pinkney lends his unmatched and beautiful watercolors to the story). The protagonist in Lester's story is a boy named Sam who is from a village where animals and people live and work together "like the didn't know they weren't supposed to" and everyone in the village is named Sam, but "nobody every got confused about which Sam was which."
The tigers look rather ridiculous in Sam's clothes.
Just listen to the way the articles of clothing are described as Sam discovers each in the village market:

...a coat as red as a happy heart.

...a pair of pants as purple as a love that would last forever.

...a shirt... as yellow as tomorrow.

...a pair of silver shoes shining like promises that are always kept. umbrella as green as a satisfied mind.

...his new clothes shining brighter that Mr. Sun when he comes back from his winter vacation.

I'm smiling like the birds are singing my name, and that's just from reading this here book!

- Matthew

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