Tikki Tikki Tembo Tikki Tikki Tembo discussion


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Tikki Tikki Tembo

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Melissa This was my absolute most favorite book as a kid but my kid hates it.


Ashley-Anne i think it's fun to read and his name is fun to say, but it's a little bit racist


Jacey I don't think it's racist since all the characters are the same race. There are no comparisons and not really any racial stereotyping. The boys are normal cheeky, playful boys who - like boys anywhere doen't always do as they are told. The mother is too concerned with formalities and propriety to use her common sense, but that's not really a racial thing. And the Old Man With The Ladder shows excellent common sense and saves the day - twice. If we're laughing at anything it's the ridiculous impossibly long name. I used to use this in Library storytimes a lot and used to tell it about 'a land far away that might or might not be just a little like China'...


Ashley-Anne Jacey wrote: "I don't think it's racist since all the characters are the same race..."

but the writer isn't Chinese, and if it should be changed during storytime so that it doesn't implicate China then maybe it's because there's something inappropriate about it? Don't get me wrong, I love the book, I just noticed recently while reading it that the idea could be considered a bit rude.


Kressel Housman Melissa, I'm with you. I loved it, but my middle kid found it boringly repetitive.


Laura2722 I love it! Gave it 5 stars!


Jacey Ashley-Anne wrote: "Jacey wrote: "I don't think it's racist since all the characters are the same race..."

but the writer isn't Chinese, and if it should be changed during storytime so that it doesn't implicate China..."


That library storytime was in 1975 and as a storyteller I added and subtracted bits to make the kids think. It was a different planet then.

Since the great Racefail furore on LiveJournal a few years ago and a particularly nasty blog castigating authors for perceived racial and cultural failings (even when the blogger hasn't actually read their books) I fear we've all become oversensitised to potential problems. That doesn't mean to say cultural appropriation is right - of course it's not - but I think we have to think carefully before defining cultural appropriation and before applying it retrospectively to books written in all innocence. As I say, I'm not sure it applies in the case of Tikki Tikki Tembo because all of the characters are the same race, clever and foolish alike. If the idiots in the story had been one race, and the clever ones who solved the problem been another, I would worry much more.

This book is over 40 years old. Cultural appropriation was a term that had not then been invented. I think we have to take the writer at face value and assume no bad intent.

Also as adults, it's up to us how we present books to small children. I wouldn't have any qualms about reading this to my grandson, any more than I would worry about Epaminondas or the Anansi stories.

Just out of curiosity I have some friends who are Zulu. I'll ask them what stories they grew up with and what their take on the whole cultural appropriation thing is.


Kirsten This was my all-time favorite story in 3rd grade (1983)!


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