A Guest Post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society, by Jennie Fitzkee

What would you do if a beloved book, rich in meaning and literature, were to be banned, gone forever? Would you vow to memorize the book in order to save it? I would. When Charles French, a professor of English Literature, formed a society at Lehigh University in his English 2 class for the purpose of appreciating all books – especially those that have been banned over the years – I knew this was more than a brilliant idea. Much like the storyline in Fahrenheit 451, the members of the ULS (Underground Library Society) pick a banned book to save. The society has now grown beyond the boarders of Lehigh. I chose to champion a classic children’s book. Thank you for including me in the ULS. I am giving a shoutout to readers to become a member and tell the world about your favorite banned book, and why you would save it. Here is my story:

charles french words reading and writing

ULS logo 1

Thank you to Jennie Fitzkee for her guest post for the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society. She deals with a book that is easily misunderstood as being racist, and she details that the story is really about India and not African-Americans. It is important to make the distinction between perception of racism and actual racism, as Jennie does.  Now for her post:

In 1899 Helen Bannerman wrote a children’s book, Little Black Sambo, after she and her husband had lived in India for thirty years.  Helen was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she fondly remembered those years in India.  The classic story is about a little boy who outwits tigers in the jungle.  I dearly loved this story when I was a child, particularly the tigers turning into butter when they ran in circles around the tree.


The boy’s name is Little Black Sambo, his mother is…

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About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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16 Responses to A Guest Post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society, by Jennie Fitzkee

  1. beetleypete says:

    A great choice, Jennie. Good to hear ‘the voice of reason’ when I read it over on Charles’ blog.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Darlene says:

    I loved this story as a child too. I always thought it was an African tale. But it makes sense that it is from India.

  3. GP Cox says:

    I know I’d never be able to memorize a whole book, so I’d have to create a really good hiding place!

  4. While I may not be able to remember a book word for word, I can easily remember the impact and meaning of my favourite books from childhood and early adolescence; they’re a part of me now

  5. Wow, what a commitment to memorize an entire book to keep it alive…very impressive – Brava!

  6. Luanne says:

    I’m trying to imagine how much I would have to unpack from my brain to memorize an entire book. HAHAHAHAHAHA I’m going to comment about the Bannerman over there . . . .

  7. Norah says:

    I remember hearing this story as a child, Jennie but haven’t thought about it for years. It was good to read your post explaining its background.

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