Nita Berry
CHITTI’S TRAVELLING BOOK BOX by By Kavitha Punniyamurthi. Illustrations by Niveditha Subramaniam Duckbill Books/ Penguin Random House India, 2023, 72 pp., INR 199.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Nobody wants the old tractor. Its days of ploughing the fields and carrying loads of goods in its trailer are over. It stands in a corner of Appa’s farm where Chitti and her friends make it their play area. They have so much fun here that Chitti wishes that Appa won’t ever be able to sell it.
When she goes to her uncle and aunt in Madras for the holidays, she comes back as always with a great idea, and carrying an even greater box! What could be in it, her friends try to guess… No, it’s not Mysore Pak, it’s not an autographed cricket bat, nor a puppy—it’s gorgeous books of every size in bright colours and with loads of stories inside! There are no such books in Chitti’s small village in Tamil Nadu, and the nearest library is the government library in Ananoor, far away on the other side of the river. Chitti has fallen in love with books—but she’s in for a shock! Her friends are disinterested and find her books boring… till she begins to read stories aloud to them, and then everybody is hooked! But Appa is selling the old tractor at last. What will Chitti and her friends do now?
Chitti’s Travelling Book Boxby Kavitha Punniyamurthi is a heart-warming chapter book for young readers of around 6-8 age years, and one of a series of ‘Hole Books’ by Duckbill Books, dedicated to ‘libraries, librarians and little readers everywhere’. Just ‘Jump into reading through a Duckbill hole,’ says the back cover. And that’s just what this small book does as Chitti wants to share the magic of books with everyone. It celebrates the joy of reading and encourages children to love books.
Packed with fun and action, Kavitha Punniyamurthi’s story unfolds descriptively with big dollops of humour. ‘All through Chitti’s seven years, the tractor had clunked, thumped and rattled its way up and down, in and around the farm. It had sploshed through muddy puddles and jounced over rocky paths…’ The young reader can literally hear and see the action through the sounds of words. The author makes liberal use of Tamil words which give it an authentic local flavour. However, words like paavadai-chattai, vaapa, umma, paati etc., may be incomprehensible for children of other regions.
Kavitha Punniyamurthi is an award-winning author for children, whose charming picture book, When Bholu Came Back was given the South Asia Book Award.