Sam and the Tigers
Julius Lester, author
Pictures by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers,
A Division of Penguin USA, 1996
This is a retelling of the old book, Little Black Sambo, breathing into it new life with wit, humor and beautiful illustrations.
Main characters –
• Sam – the little boy who had wonderful new clothes
• Sam and Sam, Sam’s parents who supported Sam’s colorful choices of clothes
Secondary characters –
• The Tigers, who talk Sam out of his wonderful clothes
Other characters –
• Shopkeepers where Sam got all of this clothes
o Mr. Elephant and his Elegant Habiliments
o Mrs. Monkey’s Magnificent Attire
o Miss Cat’s Feline’s Finest Finery
o Mr. Giraffe’s Genuine Stupendous Footwear Emporium
o Brer Rabbit (umbrellas)
We read Little Black Sambo years ago and at one time had a copy of it and I had a vague recollection of the story. After reading the book jacket blurb there seems to have been some sort of controversy about the book years ago (and maybe still is a little today) but being a nonhuman I don’t understand all of those things people get so upset about. To me a cat is a cat is a cat, regardless of the color of fur (or in the case of my hairless cousins, the color of their skin). What matters is the story. And I love this story!
Sam lives in a town where everyone is named Sam! In fact the name of his town is Sam-sam-sa-mara and all the people and animals live and work together. One day when Sam is out shopping he talks his parents into getting a new outfit for school and what an outfit it is! His parents loving let him express his creativity and he gets purple pants, a yellow shirt, red jacket, and a green umbrella, as well as silver shoes. So off to school he goes feeling fine but is confronted by the local bully, a Tiger. In a series of encounters he loses all of his shiny new clothes to the Tigers. But Sam, being a smart boy, outwits the Tigers and gets his clothes back.
For me it is a story about creative expression and how bullies try to reign in creativity. Here, Sam is the hero because he triumphs over the bullies and shares his victory with all of his neighbors. He is loving and giving and smart.
The illustrations are wonderful. The characters faces are expressive and sweet. There are hidden surprises on every page so view each page carefully before turning it. Mr. Pinkey has drawn a world of that is intricate in detail and fairly accurate in town and country fashion of the 1920s-30s. The tigers are bold and together with Sam seem to dance right off the page.
Get this book for your kittens or for yourself, just get it!
Rating: 4 paws for just how fine Sam really is!
More books by Julius Lester
Some books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Little Black Sambo books from the 20th century