Peummi Premathiratne brings us a wonderful tale narrated by a little girl with a big heart, who invites the reader to experience the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child. Join Nevanya – or Nevi for short – as she shares all the glorious events and traditions of the season in Sri Lanka, and all the great things and the little things that touch the heart of a child during this season.
Let’s find out why Christmas is the happiest time of the year for our young Nevanya as she talks about everything from Christmas shopping and decorating the house; from a letter to Santa to the scrumptious smells of Christmas delights from the kitchen – but more important than all of these things, the joy of giving and the love of family.
The author, Peummi, talks about her own childhood and growing up. “I was that kid who saw the beauty of books only for educational purposes,” she says. “As a child I had a clear goal and a vision by the age of ten.”
Schooling at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya, Peummi was involved in many curricular activities such as drama, speech and debating.
As a kid when people posed the famous question, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Peummi would eagerly answer with glowing eyes, “A lawyer for sure!”
And become a lawyer she did, at the age of 24, opening her own legal firm a couple of years later.
Peummi admits that she never read story books when she was a kid, but rather, she was passionate to put down her thoughts and musings on paper from a very young age. So much so that when all her other classmates submitted their academic projects for A’Levels, Peummi submitted a book of 50 poems composed by her.
2020 and the Covid pandemic changed many people lives and Peummi took the opportunity of all the extra free time to read story books to her daughter.
Says Peummi, “I remember the day very clearly… it was the 13th of April 2020. I was reading to my three-year-old daughter. And oh my, when I looked at her eyes, I’ve never seen her happier. She was so interested and curious to know what was next! The enthusiasm she had made me realise how much it made her happy just to hear those simple words and and how those words were very close to her heart.”
Her daughter’s joy sparked an idea. Peummi wanted to write a book for her daughter, a sort of legacy for her one day. Even though she never spent her own childhood reading childrens book, maybe she needed to look at books through a different lens.
Perhaps she could contribute something to society in her own little way. What if she could share a valuable message to society through my book… how lovely would that be? Peummi’s parents had always encouraged her to make use of every second in a productive manner and this, perhaps, is one reason that made her write during the pandemic.
So Peummi did her research and found that not many books spoke about the beauty of the life of a Sri Lankan child and especially lacking were books in English that spoke about the beauty of growing up in Sri Lanka and what beautiful things this country has to offer.
“I also did not see a representation of a child like my daughter,” says Peummi, “A story of a child living in Sri Lanka for the world to see. This is where I had the idea of creating the character of Nylie for the ‘Nylie series’ and others like Nevanya in “Christmas in Sri Lanka” and Rusiru in “Avurudu in Sri Lanka”.
And so we see the creation of “Christmas in Sr Lanka” which is just one of many books that Peummi has since then written. Her second was a follow up on the series, called “Avurudu in Sri Lanka” and she also has a series of four other books in what is part of the “Nylie” series, two of which are published – “Have you met my Daddy?” and “A little bit of love from Nylie” – and the other two to be release soon – “My Ruby and I” and “My Dolly and I”.
“Today I am thrilled to see, my books are shipped globally to countries such as Dubai, Australia, Singapore, America and the UK,” says Peummi. “Eighty books promoted at the recently held Colombo International Book Fair at the BMICH sold out in four days!”
“Today, wherever I go I get so many kids coming up to me saying, “Aunty I read your book, I enjoyed it very much.” The level of satisfaction cannot be expressed through words,” says Peummi.
Peummi’s inspiration behind her writing has been from her own experiences where she identified the need for learning through fun, by inculcating strong values through the habit of reading. A unique element about this series of books is the portrayal of Sri Lanka and its wonder and charm that instills a sense of appreciation and patriotism for the country.
Through her writing, Peummi endeavors to share important messages which help young children develop an appreciation for diverse cultures, Sri Lankan traditions and its many virtues, good habits and the importance of respecting diversity across the country and vocations.
Deeply rooted in her writing is the ‘Sri Lankan flavour’, which promotes the island’s beauty and rich heritage which is important for every child to remember. Her vision is to inspire children and help them develop their love for the country through the wonders of books.