Thursday, August 26, 2010

27th August Arlene Mosel (1921 - 1996) Sarah Stewart

American professor of library science, Arlene Mosel wrote two picture books in the 1970s which are still read by children and librarians. They are written as folktales, but whether or not they were actually based on Chinese or Japanese folktales is now debatable. This aside the well known Tikki Tikki Tembo and Caldecott Medal winning The Funny Little Woman, both illustrated by Blair Lent, are still in libraries and early childhood classrooms and children enjoy their improbability and dramatic plots. The long name of the older brother, Tikki Tikki Tembo rolls off the tongue and has children parroting it very quickly. Kindergarten are fascinated by a name that long!

The debate surrounding Tikki Tikki Tembo centres on the fact that people of Chinese heritage worry that readers may see this story as being fact or being representative of Chinese culture. Rather than not read it at all, I feel it is better to be very clear to present the story as a dramatic family story that is not factually correct and one that was written in a different time when travel and knowledge of other cultures was not what it is in our culturally diverse communities.

It is also American author Sarah Stewart's birthday. I don't know when she was born, just that it was on this day. It is fitting too, that one of her books that is well known is The Library, a story about Elizabeth Brown who just loves books. A fitting tribute to librarian Arlene Mosel! I love the illustration from the cover of it, done by her husband David Small that has been turned into a book mark. It is also a fitting end to Book Week! We had a wonderful Book Week at school, finishing this morning with a Book Week Expo where each class went to all the other classrooms to see what that class had done for Book Week. I have photos and hope to write more about it soon.

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