Monday, February 20, 2012
TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO by Arlene Mosel
This Tikki Tikki Tembo is a 2007 re-issue of an old Chinese folktale published in 1968. It is about an old tradition in which the eldest son in a family is given an honorably long name. Mosel’s protagonist is named Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, meaning “the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world,” while his younger brother is just named Chang, meaning “little or nothing.” The two boys enjoy playing near the well while their mother washes clothes in a nearby stream. One day Cheng falls into the well. When Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo tells his mom, she tells him to fetch the old man with the ladder to get him out. The old man retrieves Cheng and all is good again. Then, on another day, when the two boys are playing by the well again, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo falls in. Cheng runs to tell his mother, but he so is frantic and out of breath that he can barely say his brother’s name. By the time his mother understands and Cheng is able to communicate the news to the old man with the ladder, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo has been in the well for quite a while. As a result, his recovery time is much more lengthy than Cheng’s. And thus, as a result, Chinese parents from then on give all their children short names.
Children and parents have enjoyed this book together for decades by getting caught up in the fun of reciting Tikki tikki tembo’s full name. Blair Lair’s illustrations consist of line drawings with watercolor, making the artwork look similar to old classic Chinese art. I don’t particularly like how the mother names her children according to how she values them, but she does show that she cares for Cheng by being properly concerned when he first falls in the well. His rescue is then followed by a double page spread illustration of the mother, old man, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo and Cheng all celebrating. Overall it is an entertaining story.