Helen Bannerman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Helen Bannerman

Helen Bannerman, born Brodie Cowan Watson (1862 – 1946) was a Scottish author of children's books. She is best known for her first book, Little Black Sambo.

Early life[edit]

Bannerman was born in Edinburgh. Because women were not admitted into British universities, she sat external examinations set by the University of St. Andrews, attaining the qualification of Lady Literate in Arts (LLA).


Bannerman wrote about India. The illustrations and settings of her books demonstrate that the children she writes about are south Indian or Tamil. Little Black Sambo has ghee, tigers, and a bazaar, The Story of Little Black Mingo has jungle, a mugger (a kind of crocodile), a dhobi, and a mongoose, Little Black Quasha has a bazaar and tigers, and The Story of Little Black Quibba has mangoes and elephants.


Bannerman lived much of her life in India, where her husband William Bannerman was an officer in the Indian Medical Service, including 32 years in Madras.

She was the grandmother of the physicist Tom Kibble, who discovered the Higgs–Kibble mechanism and the Higgs boson.


Because the name Sambo has come to be seen as a slur on people of colour, the books have often been blacklisted or censored. This prompted a new version co-authored by Fred Marcellino called The Story of Little Babaji, with the names of the main characters changed. Earlier, in 1976, Platt & Munk Publishers had issued a version of Little Black Sambo with the parents' names identifiably Indian, and the picturesque illustrations altered to indicate decidedly Indian clothing.



  • The Story of Little Black Sambo, 1899[1][2]
  • Story of Little Black Mingo, 1901
  • The Story of Little Black Quibba, 1902[3]
  • Little Degchie-Head: An Awful Warning to Bad Babas, 1903
  • Little Kettle-Head, 1904
  • Pat and the Spider, 1905
  • The Teasing Monkey, 1907
  • Little Black Quasha, 1908
  • Story of Little Black Bobtail, 1909
  • Sambo and the Twins, 1936
  • Little White Squibba, 1965. This is a rewrite of Little Black Sambo with a white girl as heroine. Elizabeth Hay (1981) wrote that Helen's daughter Day completed the Squibba book from scribbles Helen had written down.[4]


  1. ^ Stories for Little Children, p. 376 (1920) Houghton Mifflin, New York
  2. ^ Mary Stone, ed. (1908) Children's Stories that Never Grow Old, p. 173, Reilly & Britton Company, Chicago
  3. ^ Helen Bannerman (1902) The Story of Little Black Quibba
  4. ^ (Hay 1981, pp. 152–153)


  • Hay, Elizabeth (1981), Sambo Sahib : the story of Little Black Sambo and Helen Bannerman (1st ed.), Edinburgh: Paul Harris Publishing, ISBN 0-904505-91-X 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]