On the Tip of a Pin was… by Geeta Dharmarajan (founder and executive director of non-profit organisation Katha) and illustrated by Ludmilla Chakrabarty (Katha, 2009)… what an intriguing, zany title, and an intriguing, zany cover. And indeed, what a book. We ABSOLUTELY LOVE it (And I wish I had scope on this blog to show that via the actual print on the page, like the book does!)!! The story is so exuberant and silly and yet conveys a depth of meaning so profound that readers of all ages will enjoy it – and it certainly becomes a heads-together, collaborative bedtime readaloud. The illustrations seem to spill out of the text in a profusion of color and the various contortions of Worm’s twisting, digging body. Yes, this story revolves around a worm. If you’d asked me before picking up On the Tip of a Pin was… whether I liked stories about worms, I would probably have said that, although not my reading of choice, I would suffer them for the sake of my two boys: but now, well, if all worm stories can be this hilarious and thought-provoking, I’m converted.
In brief, the story stars a long, troublesome, zzzooooooommmming worm, who is considered the bane of the the lives of the people, including 20 children, and the lion, pig, cow and goat who all live on the tip of a pin in the town of Pintipur – until, that is, the worm shows them how to explore the world and indeed space through the wormholes she makes. Worm doesn’t change by the end of the story, despite the children’s best efforts, but their attitudes do. Plenty of more-than-satisfying nonsensical twists lead this tail, no I mean tale, from beginning to end – and then, just when you think you’ve come to the end of the ride, you turn the page and discover there’s more to wormholes than you realised. Budding physicists may already be aware that wormholes are “actually like a ‘shortcut’ through space and time.” Wow! So then you have to read the story all over again, adding that extra layer to the narrative. Wonderful!
Some aspects of this unique book that we love:
~ The way the book opens and the pages are turned from bottom to top.
~ The writing – tiny letters for whispers, squiggle and swirls, expressive fonts etc.
~ Lots of onomatopeia
~ …and wordplay – like when the worm comes back after days away: “Zooooooomeraannng!”
~ Worm seeming to weave her way through the pages.
~ Mind-spinning, nonsensical notions like “the longest lake in the world in the middle of the town that was on the tip of a pin.”
~The visual jokes
~The contrast between full-color pages and plain white backgrounds.
~ The unspecified but definite Indian setting.