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The Story of Little Babaji
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Fred Marcellino's picture books include Puss in Boots, a Caldecott Honor Book; The Steadfast Tin Soldier, an ALA Booklist Children's Editors' Choice; and The Pelican Chorus, one of School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year.His most recent books, The Story of Little Babaji and Ouch! are both ALA Notable Children's Books.Dancing By the Light of the Moon: The Art of Fred Marcellino will open on November 9, 2002 and run through January 26, 2003 at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This is a comprehensive show of more than 150 pieces highlighting his children's book career, and the first museum retrospective honoring the artistic accomplishments of this remarkable artist. For more information visit, The Norman Rockwell Museum website.

Reviews

PreS-Gr 2‘Bannerman's famous (perhaps infamous) book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, first appeared in 1899. In the original, a "little black boy" loses articles of his clothing to a succession of tigers. Argue as they do, the animals cannot decide who among them is the grandest. In their anger they whirl around a tree so fast that they melt into a pool of butter ("or `ghi' as it is called in India") while the boy recovers his clothing. "Black Jumbo," the boy's father, takes the butter home to Sambo's mother, "Black Mumbo." A note on this newly illustrated version states that, "For this edition of Bannerman's story, the little boy, his mother, and his father have been given authentic Indian names": Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji. Marcellino's illustrations clearly set the story in India in a time long past. Though the artist's watercolors are well crafted, often amusing, and appropriate to the tone of the text, they and the "new" names appear to only replace one cliché with another. The bug-eyed characters, with their diminutive names, serve only to create a new stereotype. Humor is conveyed in the body language of the tigers, and they are magnificently done. Many remember Bannerman's tale fondly, though the story itself has a condescending, childish tone. Those who want a relic of their childhood are likely to be disappointed in this edition. Julius Lester's retelling, Sam and the Tigers, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, 1996), retains the appealing aspects of the story but adds a fresh humor and less-clichéd perspective through the names and the warm illustrations.‘Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library

"This story, which might almost have come out of some folklore collection, has about it an effortless perfection which baffles analysis . . . The formula is: extreme simplicity of language, short, cadenced sentences with enough repetition to give the pleasant rhythm little children enjoy, a plot full of mild and funny surprises, considerable suspense, and complete satisfaction at the end. Still, the easy charm of this unaffected, convincing little tale eludes us."-- "May Hill Arbuthnot, Children and Books."

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