Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flashback Tuesday: Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel illus Blair Lent

I really wanted to write about a book I have always loved to read aloud. I was reminded of Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel while I was doing my duck research. This is a classic book based on an old folktale. It was always a favorite to read at story time!

I never knew that there was a bit of controversy about the book. Some people feel that it is not politically correct. I always found, though, that when you read the book to kids they don't notice any issues. They just hear the story of two boys and a really really long name. It is a great book to read in a group setting because it can become quite rowdy with all the children reciting the name. This is just a great fun book that stirs the imagination and a classic to add to a child's bookshelf.....


  1. I remember this book as one of my favorite childhood classics, too! But as an adult striving to be socially responsible and culturally sensitive, it is important to be careful about what stereotypes and cultural assumptions we put into children's minds. Children do not pick out the cultural bias they learn from the world around them; they soak it up. Although I loved this book as a child and have fond connotations, I cannot distribute it to the children I provide books for in good conscience. It has a flippant, steretyping attitude towards a specific ethnic group's culture. How would you feel reading this to a group of little Chinese children? A caucasian author making a funny little tale out of how Chinese culture has short first names does not convey respect for this culture. It is difficult to admit that the classics we grew up on portray outdated and racist mindsets and are not appropriate (like the classic movie "Holiday Inn" with its black-face routine or the book "Little Black Sambo"). But it is important to consider this as we influence young, forming minds.

  2. This is a more elequent response from another commentator on this subject:


    With more consideration I guess I would be able to read this book in good conscience, but only if I also addressed the issues of negative stereotypes it brings up. It could serve as a valuable teaching platform from which to plant that seed of thinking critically about cultural and racial stereotypes.