Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sam and the Tigers

When I checked for titles by Julius Lester and found Sam and the Tigers I had a brief recollection of a story that was read to me as a child. I remembered the story of tigers chasing one another around a tree and a boy with brightly colored clothes having pancakes at the end of the story. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sam and the Tigers was a re-telling of Helen Bannerman's Little Black Sambo. As a child, and even as an adult (up until about ten years ago), I didn't realize the original was criticized for racial stereotyping. I remembered the book about the boy that lived in a faraway place who got to see tigers every day just like I saw cows and other animals on a farm every day. It seemed magical to me at the time. Just like the original, Sam encounters tigers and trades his beautiful new clothes for his safety. Children will enjoy this picture book, and as an adult I found the re-telling a fun read with beautiful illustrations. I also found the author's notes at the end of the story the best part of the book. I enjoyed the history of both books that included information about the re-telling of the story and re-inventing the illustrations. More stories by Julius Lester include: To Be a Slave, The Long Journey Home: Stories From Black History, This Strange New Feeling, The Tales of Uncle Remus, Say of Tears, A Novel in Dialogue, and John Henry (also illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). Pinkney also illustrated Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, The Sunday Outing, Back Home, and The Talking Eggs.

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