I have never forgotten these words…
‘Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo’
I’m sure there are so many others of you that also remember and can recite this, the name of the little boy who falls in the well, whose little brother takes so long to say his brother’s name and to get him help. The story, written to sound like a folktale, supposedly tells of why the Chinese give their children short names.
I vividly remember chanting ‘Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo’ in primary school and know that it was read to us many times. Published in 1968, it is one of the absolute classics of my generation and it was interesting to see it featured on We Love You So - the blog dedicated to Spike Jonze and the Where The Wild Things Are film. Like the Sendak book, Tikki Tikki Tembo is also a picture book that has gathered a cult following and inspires passionate reminiscences.
There is controversy, as it seems comes with many of the picture books published in the 60s and 70s. It is said that the story is making fun of the Chinese and their names and it is also debated whether the tale is Japanese rather than Chinese.
The evidence of its continuted popularity however is obvious with a search on Youtube, with so many different tellings of the story listed from a fantastic shadow puppet play to numerous kindergarten performances.
Like my review on The Story Of Ping much of the impact of this book on me was the beautiful illustrations that give the book a lovely, even if false, sense of traditional China.