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The Story of Little Babaji Hardcover – August 30, 1996

52 customer reviews

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Go to School, Little Monster
Go to School, Little Monster
Helen Ketteman’s soothing rhymes and Bonnie Leick’s sweet watercolor illustrations combine to create a reassuring first-day-of-school story that’s perfect for little monsters everywhere. See more | More by Helen Ketteman
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Almost a century ago, when Helen Bannerman created the story of Little Black Sambo while traveling on a train to Madras, she never guessed that her simple tale would become a symbol of racism. It was the names she chose for her characters and the simple, crude illustrations that earned the story a place on the trash heap of politically incorrect literature. Underneath the racist veneer, however, is a simple and timeless story. Thank goodness for Fred Marcellino's new version. He saves the tale by changing the names of the characters to Babaji, Mamaji and Papaji. In doing so, he has resurrected a basically honorable tale from a largely undeserved fate. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Like Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney (see Sam and the Tigers, below; and see Children's Books, July 29), Marcellino (Puss in Boots) takes on the task of recasting Helen Bannerman's 1899 classic, Little Black Sambo; also like Lester and Pinkney, he obtains winning results. He sets his version in India, changing the names of the characters from their racist originals to reflect local terms of affection but otherwise retaining Bannerman's simple, straightforward text. Papaji is a mustachioed, turbaned artisan; Mamaji, draped in a sari, sews the finery that draws the tigers' attention; Little Babaji strolls through the jungle?past palm fronds and temples?in an outfit worthy of a rajah. He loses his fine clothing piece by piece to a succession of tigers, but triumphs when the egotistical creatures chase one another around a tree until they all melt into butter. The tigers are by turns haughty, intimidating, and immensely silly in their exaggerated preening and posturing: for example, as they escalate their dispute over which tiger is the grandest, one pounces elaborately upon another, who has put up his paws, boxing-style. A stylish and comparatively spare interpretation?Marcellino several times uses a single image set off by white space, suggesting rather than showing the country's lushness?that still captures the childlike whimsy and charm of this long-lived tale. Ages 2-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (August 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062050648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062050649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I remember so vividly my "Tell-a-Tale" book of "Little Black Sambo." It was one of my favorites, and I can distinctly hear my mother's voice reading it to me. None of us thought of it being racist at the time, and while I can understand why it was banned, I always mourned its passing. While I also like another recent version of this story, "Sam and the Tigers," "Little Babaji" has the exact text that I remember. It makes so much more sense to have an Indian family, because as my son says, "There are no tigers in Africa." What a lovely reminder of my childhood, and what beautiful illustrations. Now the only problem is that I don't know which of my children to give it to!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By F. S. Dowler on November 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Normally, I eschew rewrites and updates, particularly if the books are children's novels "dumbed-down" for board book and toy book appeal. However, Little Babaji is exquisite in this rewrite of The Story of Little Black Sambo. The Indic names "Mamaji, Papaji, and Babaji" convey a new warmth for the story of a boy who creatively outwits wild tigers without swords or sorcery. (I think of Max in Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, especially in the double-page spread in the book's middle.) Marcellino's illustrations are humorous and spirited. My only wish is that the publishers would reprint Little Babaji in a size large enough for easy viewing in library preschool storytimes.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2001
Format: Library Binding
As I read through this version I had vivid memories of my mother reading Little Black Sambo to me when I was four years old. Now, as was then, it is difficult to determine if the illustrations bring the text to life or if it is the other way around! When I first showed the book to my two boys (5 and 9 years old), the response was ho-hum----then I quietly began to read. They became transfixed, after all,watching wily tigers turn into butter is a pretty neat trick. The legacy lives on and so does our desire to munch on some pancakes at the end of each reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In the past months I have bought 4 or 5 copies of this book for young friends. The reaction has been enthusiastic but I most enjoy my grandchildrens' enthusiastic reception and that of the children in the inner-city pre-school in which I volunteer. This is a universal story, stripped of its earlier connotations, and theillustrations alone are superlative. . Never have there been such proud parents, such a delighted child, such swaggering and vainglorious tigers. My young friends can't get enough of it, and neither can I.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderfully revised version of the story of Little Black Sambo. Beautifully illustrated. If you grew up like I did with the little golden book version of Little Black Sambo and you absolutely loved the story this is the version for you.The name of the boy has been changed and he is depicted as an Indian child as he should have been since the story takes place in India and there are no tigers in Africa.This is a delightful story of a boy who outwits the tigers that want to eat him for their lunch.Instead of dwelling on what was supposedly a racist story, I think people should comment on the child's intelligence and the imagination he used in saving himself from the tigers. Children have loved this story for generations.This version keeps with the original story with the exception of the name change and the illustrations are fabulous they are the best I have seen in any version of this story. There are plenty of versions of Little Black Sambo out there , but this is definitely the best .
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence E. Wilson on February 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Yes, it's the old, old story of "Little Black Sambo," written a century ago by Bannerman, an Englishwoman living in India---but here, thank goodness, reworked, revised, rescued! With all the nasty bits replaced. Authentic Indian names are used, and the wonderful illustrations by Fred Marcellino place it firmly in India, where it always belonged. The story itself has never been anything but terrific---the boy is brave, resourceful, and clever, gets himself out of a life-threatening situation, and his parents are loving and generous---but the weighty baggage of colonialism and racism (we won't even go into the history of British imperialism in India) prevented it from being enjoyed by anyone. As the book stands now, it can join the ranks of useful, funny, multicultural classics. Plus, it's a great story to read aloud, and kids like it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mica Jade on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Story of Little Babaji is a terrific new retelling of the old childrens story of Little Black Sambo. The drama and intrigue (and yummy, buttery pancakes) of the original are all present here, but without the unfortunate racially-charged issues that have plagued the original story. The art for this book is fantastic, and I find it quite hard to decide which image of the various tigers I like best. You'll cheer for the triumphant Babaji when he bests the mean tigers to reclaim his fine clothes, and it's impossible not to chuckle at the sight of the tigers squashed into Babaji's clothes or wearing his shoes on their ears. All in all, a wonderful job and a great re-telling of this classic kids story.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you asked most children today about "The Story of Little Black Sambo," they would probably just give you a puzzled look. Helen Bannerman's story, first published in 1899 and enshrined at one point at Sambo restaurants around the country (specializing in pancakes), is transformed by Fred Marcellino into what might be dismissed by some as simply a political correct version of the original. But to tell you the truth, the part that first offended me about the original story was the implication that there were tigers in Africa. Of course, eventually my eyes were opened to the story's more racist elements. Marcellino's version of the story is clearly set in India, with perfectly innocuous names (Babaji, Papaji and Mamaji) and there is a "soft" quality to his artwork that enhances the telling of the tale. For my money this is an acceptable and worthwhile transformation of Bannerman's story, which is still available, albeit more as a curiosity. Children today can read "The Story of Little Babaji" and have no inkling that this is probably the most controversial children's story ever written. I would even argue there would be some value in telling them about the original version, so they can appreciate the reason for Marcellino's alterations. However, some of them might have concerns about eating all that butter...
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