'Thammi’s Gift' book: Gifting a world of words

It was an article that the author had written for Scroll.in during the pandemic in 2020 that had inspired the idea to create a book.

Published: 04th January 2023 09:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th January 2023 09:22 AM   |  A+A-

Himani Dalmia and Bandana Sen

Himani Dalmia and Bandana Sen

Express News Service

Walking into the stack of books, sitting under the neatly arranged pile sorted according to genres, and indulging into the imaginative world created by a writer will be the ideal way to spend a day for any book lover. Thammi’s Gift, a children’s book by Himani Dalmia, introduces to the reader what it is like to live in a world of books from a young age. Drawing inspiration from a real character ‘Thammi’ aka Bandana Sen, a pioneer in the field of children’s libraries and reading programmes in India, the book serves as a guiding light to new readers who are ready to be swept by the world of words. 

Creating a children’s book
It was an article that the author had written for Scroll.in during the pandemic in 2020 that had inspired the idea to create a book. It was something personal for her as the book features her mother-in-law, child, and their family. “When I was pregnant with Devika, my mother-in-law, rather than gifting gold or silver or making an investment in our child’s name, gave my daughter a library.

A growing library of books turned out to be the greatest gift she could give her. When she passed away in 2018, the library was not complete, but it did have more than 2,000 books. During the pandemic, even though we were engrossed in a lot of activities, what really filled and punctuated our day was the library. Whenever there was a time where we didn’t know what to do, we would just pull out books, and read together,” shares Himani.

She felt that creating a children’s book about Bandana Sen would be a perfect tribute to the librarian. “There are little or no Indian children’s books celebrating libraries and librarians. This is mostly because there isn’t much of a library culture here. So, I felt that this will be a first and will inspire people to create libraries on their own.” With this thought she started writing the book in October 2020, when HarperCollins and illustrator Priya Kuriyan came on board. 

Themes explored
While the book is a simple read, it deals with complex emotions. Himani through her creativity and Priya through her vibrant illustrations have created an artistry of words and pictures. The subjects like processing grief, fear of change, anxiety, dealing with the death of a dear one, finding comfort beyond your comfort zone, and growing everyday are conveyed through the main character Devika, a young girl and her Thammi (grandmother).

Everything is vividly described by the author, allowing the readers to build mind castles page after page. The story also explores magical realism through the little kid’s dream. What fascinated me most was the illustrations, which separated the concepts of dream and reality with small elements like illumination and white outlines. 

Speaking of the challenges while illustrating the book, Priya shares, “I stick to digital illustration for this book, because the book has instances which require a sense of luminosity for portraying a dreamscape. To fine tune the lighting and look into the intricacies, I thought that digital illustration would be a good option. Also, the book was a personal project and was made after Bandana ma’am had passed away. I had the fortune of meeting her in person before her demise, even before the book was in discussion. It was really helpful for me to understand her even though Himani had provided me with a lot of photographs of her describing the saris and jewellery she wore.”

The book metaphorically implies that Thammi’s real gift was to connect with people through books. This simple and fun read delves into the thoughts of a young child and addresses even the smallest concerns troubling her, showing us to be more empathetic and understanding.  

Book: Thammi’s Gift
Pages: 40  
Price: Rs 499
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

India Matters


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