This week I read aloud one of the children’s favorite books on YouTube. In order to understand the book and its popularity, first let me back up – a long time ago.
I vividly remember the book Little Black Sambo when I was a little girl. I loved that book. Did you? Do you remember the tigers running around the tree and turning into butter? This was a classic book.
Fast forward to teaching preschool. I discovered the book again, but it was different. The characters weren’t black, they were from India. That was the way the original story was written, as the author lived in India for thirty years. Here is a brief description I wrote about the book:
The Story of Little Babaji
Helen Bannerman wrote this story in 1899. When I was a child, I loved Little Black Sambo, which was an adaptation of this book. That book was banned, and the original, based in India, was reborn. Thank goodness. Not only is it a great story, it is so beloved in my classroom that we host play performances for families. When a children’s book has a repeating phrase that encourages children to join the reader and say aloud; “Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up”, it cements their love for the book.
The original book was banned. It had become a symbol of racial injustice. Yet, that was never the author’s intent, way back in 1899. Along came the illustrator Fred Marcellino who understood the story and wanted to bring it back to the original intent of the author. He didn’t change the words, but he changed the names of the characters to true Indian names – Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji.
The book is high on my top ten children’s book list. Really. My readers know I am picky, so that vote speaks volumes. Children are always glued to the story. They love to help me with the chant, “Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up.” We have done play performances for families based on this book. In my decades of teaching, this book is one of the best. It has withstood the test of time, from being loved to being banned to being redone as it was meant to be.
Schools are closed. I have set up a YouTube channel (Aqua Room) so I can read aloud to the children. Here I am reading this book aloud to my preschoolers this week: