Tikki Tikki Tembo

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Tikki Tikki Tembo Book Poster Image
Gorgeous Chinese folktale is a fun, memorable read.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows a glimpse of Chinese culture and a traditional Chinese folktale.

Positive Messages

Messages of persistence, loyalty, honoring tradition while embracing change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chang is a loyal and caring brother; his elders are strong mentors.

Violence & Scariness

Suspense when two boys fall down a well on separate occasions and must await rescue.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tikki Tikki Tembo is a beautifully illustrated, memorable Chinese folktale about what's in a name. It has some mild suspense when two boys fall down a well and await rescue but also has a beautiful message about honoring tradition while embracing change, with fun, chantable repetition. It's a great read-aloud, fine for all ages.

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What's the story?

TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO is a first son, and as such he was given an important -- and, as tradition would have it, very long -- name: Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo, which means "The Most Wonderful Thing in the Whole Wide World." His brother, Chang, not only has a shorter name but one that means much less: It means "little" or "nothing." But when Tikki Tikki Tembo falls down a well and Chang must rescue him, he and others in the community soon learn that a big, long, important name can get in the way.

Is it any good?

This is a visually appealing, imaginative retelling of a Chinese folktale that demonstrates positive sibling relationships and positive community relationships. It also powerfully shows the value of honoring old traditions while being open to newer, better ways, should they prove themselves useful. Here, kids will see not only what's in a name but also the ways in which names can propel us or hold us back.

Plus, kids will see other kids problem-solve with persistence and trust their own instincts when they sense the right thing to do. The vivid, dream-like line-and-wash illustrations are gorgeous and intricate, while the repetition of Tikki Tikki Tembo's full name is a delight to repeat and likely will inspire kids to try out some memorization and inspire a fascination with Chinese culture.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Tikki Tikki Tembo's full name ("Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo"). Can you remember it and say it now? 

  • Does your name have a special meaning? If so, what is it? 

  • How did you get your name? Why was it chosen for you?

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