Kidlit & Minecraft: Tikki Tikki Tembo

Kidlit & Minecraft: Tikki Tikki TemboTikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Illustrator: Blair Lent
Published by Square Fish on April 17, 2007
Pages: 48
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo!
Three decades and more than one million copies later children still love hearing about the boy with the long name who fell down the well. Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent's classic re-creation of an ancient Chinese folktale has hooked legions of children, teachers, and parents, who return, generation after generation, to learn about the danger of having such an honorable name as Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.


Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel is the second book we read for SKrafty’s Young Literature Classics 1 self-paced class. This 1968 classic claims to be a retelling of an ancient Chinese folktale about why Chinese names are so short. (SKrafty does point out that this is based on a fictional tradition). I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, and I don’t think it’s one we’d read it again. The problems I had lie mostly in the illustrations (although the text isn’t perfect) and ranged from Chinese culture being confused with Japanese culture to outright errors (Chang bowing backwards probably being the most glaring). These issues left me with a very subtle feeling of cultural insensitivity that I couldn’t shake.

C did seem to enjoy the book well enough as we were reading. The writing itself is lovely, and the illustrations have an old-world quality to them. And Tikki Tikki Tembo’s full name sure was a lot of fun to say! However, this book wasn’t one she brought up in conversation later, as she normally does.

For the Minecraft assignment, she was asked to build a well. She wasn’t interested in making it look authentic; she was in an especially creative mood that week. Gotta love a well dressed up in purple wool!

Our next book will be Stone Soup by Ann McGovern.