Jade Nguyen's Reviews > Tikki Tikki Tembo

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
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Sep 12, 11

Read in September, 2011

1. Folktale/Fable

2. Two Chinese brothers, the first-born named Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo and the second born named Chang, both fall into a well at different points in the story. Chang is immediately saved by the old man, but it takes longer for Tikki Tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo to be saved and recover due to his long name.

3a. Area for comment: Accuracy ( - )

3b. The title, Tikki Tikki Tembo, does not accurately represent the ancient Chinese culture. Mosel states that the Chinese have come to using short names because of this particular well incident. Although this is a folktale and should not be taken literally, the reasoning behind Chinese short names is absurd.

3c.) Firstly, an example of the title’s inaccuracy is the first-born son’s name “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-charo bari ruchi-pip peri pembo” (mentioned on several pages). This is not an authentic name for any Chinese boy and presumes to be slightly condescending. It would be more believable to have the name be of a Japanese boy where the consonants are more pronounced. I would also question the definitions provided for the meaning of “Chang” and “Tikki tikki...” Secondly, an example of inaccurate reasoning can be found on pg. 38, “And from that day to this the Chinese have always thought it wise to give all their children little, short names instead of great long names.”

4.) Tikki Tikki Tembo is written for PreS - Grade 3. To provide this book as a historical feature/lesson in the classroom would be, to me, a disservice to my students. However, this is not to say that the title can not provide positive thinking. Instead of using the title for historical purposes, I would use it to manifest critical thinking in cultural diversity. Specifically why the two little sons address their mother as “most honorable one” and why first born sons were treated differently. Some of these concerns, mentioned above in 3b and 3c, can be forgiven since the title was written in a time (1968) when Americans did not look too highly upon the Chinese with the communist uproar. Though, it does not change the amount of caution one should take when sharing this with the classroom. Thus, my only fear is whether or not it would pose a positive or negative view on the Chinese culture. Careful planning and approach is advised with this title.

Positive notes:
(+) Text: repetition
(+) Illustration: attention to detail, culture (clothes), environment
(+) Feelings of suspense, excitement
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message 1: by Sue (new)

Sue Yes - you've hit on a huge concern about this book. Trelease may need to re-think this recommendation. It is a fun read-aloud because of the sound of the name but exhibits cultural insensitivity. Great curriculum suggestion as a choice to promote critical conversation.


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