Tikki Tikki Tembo
Retold by Arlene Mosel, Illustrated by Blair Lent
Tikki Tikki Tembo is a book that I read as a young girl. When I picked it up, I immediately remembered my Mom reading it to me as a child. It is about 2 brothers who separately fall into a well, and each have to run to the Man with the Ladder to get help. The older brother is the more honorable and most loved son, his name is Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-char bari ruchi-pip peri pemo, and the younger brother is named Chang. It takes Chang much longer to get help for his brother, because it takes him so long to say his brother’s name that he keeps running out of breath. In the end, both boys are fine, and the story says that this is the reason why Chinese people have such short names today.
I think this is a good book to introduce a new culture, because the pictures really show some important aspects of Asian culture. It shows different types of houses, jobs, landscapes and traditions. Although they might not all be completely accurate, it could be a good way to start a conversation or discussion about other cultures. Another thing I really liked about it, was how it showed family relationships and the importance of family. The brothers both rushed to save each other, and everyone was eager to help when they heard what was happening. At first, it does tell how the older son is much more important and loved more than the younger son, but at the end, the mother is so happy that both of her sons have survived the well.
One way I would definitely use this book in my classroom, is to introduce legends. At the end of the book, the author says that because the younger son had such trouble saying his older brother’s long name and he almost died, this is why Chinese people have such short names today. In the classroom, it would be interesting to have kids research their names, or tell the story about why they were named what they were named. Or even to go off the topic a little bit, pick something like why people grow long hair on their heads or why people paint their finger nails, and make up a story about why that is our tradition today. This particular book could even be part of a series of stories like it, as many children’s books end with, “And this is why we __________ today”.