Horn Book Guide Reviews

Lester gets around the central textual problem of the names in Bannerman's [cf2]Little Black Sambo[cf1] by naming all the people in his adaptation ""Sam."" It's a sly idea but makes the dialogue occasionally confusing. This is a sassy, loose-limbed version of an old favorite, and Lester's wit works in ways that make the story fresh and funny; Pinkney's watercolors have vitality and, in the tigers, magnificence. (For further discussion of this title and the history of the Sambo controversy, see the September/October 1996 [cf2]Horn Book[cf1].) Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

0-8037-2029-7 ~ A sassy retelling of Little Black Sambo, set in the imaginary land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where animals are people, too, and all the humans are named Sam. When young Sam and his parents, Sam and Sam, go into town to buy school clothes, he chooses the brightest colors he can find. No sooner does he set off down the road than he begins to lose his finery to a succession of tigers--by the last, instead of ``I'm going to eat you up,'' the tigerly greeting is, ``You know the routine.'' The proud tigers meet up, squabble until they melt down, and end up as pancakes on the Sams' table. Pinkney gives the tale a verdant setting in which even trees have faces and almost every creature, from elephants to insects, is clothed in turn-of-the-century garb. Also, unlike Fred Marcellino, whose paintings for a deftly edited reissue of the tale (The Story of Little Babaji, p. 1044) follow the original's more closely, Pinkney chooses not to show the tigers strutting their stuff; the net result is to rob the story of much of its broad irony. As usual, Lester's prose is fine and funny read-aloud, but the creative interplay of text and pictures doesn't reach the heights of this team's John Henry (1994). (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Troubled by the racist trappings?the characters' names and the stereotypical illustrations?of The Story of Little Black Sambo, but drawn nonetheless to its hero and its humor, Lester and Pinkney set out to reinvent the tale. Their interpretation is more freewheeling than Fred Marcellino's (see The Story of Little Babaji, above), and they departs frequently and ingeniously from Bannerman's version. The new book's protagonist is simply Sam; the setting is the land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, where everyone is named Sam?a touch that not only defuses any echoes of the original hero's derogatory name, but allows for many wonderfully absurd exchanges ("Sam looked at Sam. Sam shrugged. Sam shrugged back...."). Using the lively Southern black voice of his Uncle Remus retellings, Lester creates a savvy, comically streetwise hero who quickly learns to anticipate the tigers' muggings (" `You know the routine,' said the Tiger. Sam nodded and took off his pants. `Take 'em.' ") while losing none of his own sass. Pinkney's lavish illustrations?a feast of figures, color, expressions and detail?pick up and run with the expansive mood of the text. A hip and hilarious retelling that marries the essence of the original with an innovative vision of its own. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

PreS-Gr 3 Lester and Pinkney reclaim "Little Black Sambo," the tale of a black child who outwits a pack of bullying tigers, from its negative, racist connotations. The reteller places the story squarely in the fantasy land of Sam-sam-sa-mara, a place "...where the animals and the people lived and worked together like they didn't know they weren't supposed to." All the humans are named Sam, which allows for a touch of Monty Pythonesque humor. Lester narrates the story in what he describes as a "southern black storyteller's voice." He deftly employs devices such as hyperbolic similes (Sam's jacket is "as red as a happy heart"), repetition, and understated humor. The rolling, lilting narrative is a model of harmony, clarity, and meticulously chosen detail, accessible to listeners as well as to independent readers. Pinkney's lively pencil-and-watercolor illustrations sprawl extravagantly across double spreads and are smoothly integrated with the narrative. The pictures are filled with motion, contrast, and appealing, often whimsical details. In their notes, both the author and the illustrator comment on the goals of their collaboration and their personal feelings about the original story. Some may feel that there is too much historical and cultural baggage attached to "Little Black Sambo" to make any retelling acceptable, but those who approach this thoughtful and entirely appealing book with open hearts and minds are in for a wonderful time. Donna L. Scanlon, Lancaster County Library, PA Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews

PreS-Gr 3 A reimagining of Little Black Sambo set in Sam-sam-sa-mara, where everyone is named Sam. Lilting language and exuberant artwork give an old story bold, new, (and politically correct) life. (Aug. 1996) Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews