A reissue of Little Black Sambo is on the best seller list in Japan. No, it isn't Sam and the Tigers, in which Julius Lester reclaims (and retells) the story in a picture book beautifully illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The old one, by Helen Bannerman. Remember the New Yorker newbreak category "There will always be an England"? I'm starting to think, "There will always be a Japan."
Bruce Wallace, of the L.A. Times, reports from Tokyo. (Read his story here.)
In April, Zuiunsha, a small Tokyo publisher specializing in reprints, bet that there was still a market for a book that had charmed generations of Japanese youngsters who, as adults, were unable to find the book to read to their own children.
The market proved him right. Zuiunsha reportedly has sold 95,000 copies in two months since bringing out "Chibikuro Sambo." Despite being a child's read at a thin 16 pages, "Sambo" sits among the top five adult fiction bestsellers at major Tokyo book chains.
A reminder: Bannerman's Story of Little Black Sambo is still in print here in our country, too. So, even though it isn't a best seller, none of us Yanks can get too smug. I highly recommend Julius Lester's Sam and the Tigers as an alternative.