Ukrainian children’s books: recommendations for publishers

Here at World Kid Lit we try to raise the profile of books from other countries, and one way we do that is to help make connections. With a goal of helping more Ukrainian children’s books make their way to other markets, we’ve compiled a list of Ukrainian children’s books (picture books, illustrated nonfiction, and middle grade) that haven’t yet been published in English – but should be! We’ve included details of translation samples and who to contact to find out more should you want to publish this in your market...

Picture books

Who Grows in the Park? (Хто росте у парку) , Who Grows in the Garden? (Хто росте в саду), Who Grows in the Forest? (Хто росте в лісі).

By Kateryna Mikhalitsyna & Oksana Bula

This three-part series is a very successful blend of storytelling and nature facts. The first book, which was featured in the White Ravens Catalogue in 2016, is a delightfully illustrated story about growing up in a community, appreciating similarities and differences in those around us, and finding our own identity. But it’s also about learning how to recognize trees in a park, recognizing them by their leaves, fruit and flowers.

In the second book, a nightingale returns from Africa and is looking for a spot to build its nest. And there are so many trees and bushes in the garden! Which of them would make a good home for a bird? Maybe a sour cherry, a sweet cherry or a cherry plum tree? Maybe a plum or a pear tree? Each tree tells its story to the nightingale, describing its own special traits. The stories of the trees also paint a picture of an old gardener, clever and kind, who treats his trees as living creatures, talks to them and cherishes them, and of his family, still living in the nearby house, who look after the trees and collect their fruit.

The third book in the series is the story of a grunting badger and some cheeky squirrels who save the forest from a fire. Readers learn how spruce and larch prepare for the winter, whether oak moss is actually a moss, and why we shouldn’t burn deadwood. The book is also interactive: you can try and find all the firebugs hidden in the pictures, learn to distinguish different trees and how to make an eco-friendly garland.

This series is published by Old Lion Publishing House (Stary Lev), in 2016, 2017 and 2019 respectively. For rights queries, contact Ivan Fedechko at Old Lion: See the Old Lion Children’s Rights Guide here. Full English translation samples available on request.


Why Nobody Strokes Hedgehogs (Почему ёжика никто не гладит), The Hedgehog and the Puzzle Gift (Ежик и подарочная путаница)

By Andrey Kurkov and Tania Goryushina

These are two loveable little fables about friendship and its ups and downs. In the first book, Hedgehog looks around him and sees cats, dogs and even horses being hugged and stroked by loving humans. Morosely, he wonders, what about me? But his new friend Mouse helps him notice the other animals around them: no one strokes them either, and they’re perfectly happy in the wild, away from unneeded human attention!

In the second book, Hedgehog finds a bag of apples one day, which he enjoys unquestioningly. But then comes the question: Who could have left them? Surely it must have been his friend Mouse, so he sets off to take her a present in return, but by the time he gets there, she’s gone. Thus unravels a sweet detective story, with fabulous illustrations full of funny details.

Andrey Kurkov, perhaps the most well-known Ukrainian writer and commentator, writes mainly in Russian. He’s best known for his adult fiction including GRAY BEES (recently published in English translation by Boris Dralyuk) and DEATH AND THE PENGUIN, but he is also author of over 20 children’s books, none of which have been translated into English yet as far as we know.

Tania Goryushina is a Sweden-based illustrator, artist and micropublisher. She first published Kurkov’s picture books at her press, Tyanachu, and now the translation rights are managed by Diogenes in Switzerland. For rights enquiries, contact Katharina Fischer: Sample English translation by Elizabeth Kourkov available on request.


Tukoni – Forest Dwellers (Туконі – мешканець лісу), Happy Birthday, Little Tree, or Fir-Tree’s Birthday (День народження ялинки)

By Oksana Bula

Oksana Bula is the creator of the adorable and mesmerizing Tukoni series of picture books, and related animations and games. The Tukoni are animal-like forest spirits, a bit like the Pokémon of the Ukrainian woodland, and they each have a role to play as guardians and friends of the forest.

In the first book, a thunderstorm rages all night in the woods. The Wanderer, one of the Tukoni, is asleep and doesn’t notice the storm, but he’s awoken by his best friend, a tree who is struck by lightning during the night. The Wanderer gathers together the other Tukoni, including Moth, who makes a magical comforter. The Tukoni work together to save the tree, the Wanderer’s best friend. This is a book about treating the place where you live as a friend: cherishing and taking care of your environment.

In the second book, the reader learns that all trees are born in summer, including fir trees. The fir tree Tukoni makes sure that by the winter they have grown up and become stronger. However, there is one fir tree that actually grows up in the winter and no one ever knows where it is going to show up next. So Tukoni must find her. The uniqueness of Oksana’s books lies in the fact that much of the plot is conveyed in the illustrations, which are designed for detailed examination and discussion. The questions that arise are, in fact, the driving force of the plot. There is deliberately as much room as possible for interpretation and imagination in this detective story for the youngest book lovers.

Published by Old Lion Publishing House (Stary Lev). For rights enquiries, contact Ivan Fedechko at Old Lion: See the Old Lion Children’s Rights Guide here. English translation samples available on request.


The Ghost Who Couldn’t Fall Asleep (Привид, який не міг заснути)

By Natalka Maletych and Natalia Chorna

In an abandoned house on the outskirts of the city, there lives a ghost. He is lonely because there are no people around to visit in the evening, to turn off their bedside lamps, or to cover with a blanket. The ghost can’t sleep since all his neighbors moved out. But then one day everything changes, when a young family with a little daughter moves into the haunted house. A beautiful tale about loneliness and discovering friendship in the most unusual places that reads with new meaning in a post-Covid world.

Published by Old Lion Publishing House (Stary Lev), 2020. For rights enquiries, contact Ivan Fedechko at Old Lion: See the Old Lion Children’s Rights Guide here. Full English translation available to download, translated by Zenia Tompkins:


My Gran (Моя Ба)

By Tanya Stus and Nadyozhna (Nadia Kushnir)

This is a beautiful and moving story about a young girl’s daily walks with her Gran, her ‘Ba’. Both grandmother and granddaughter enjoy themselves during their walks. They play different games, including pretending to have six feet, to be a turtle, a giraffe, a spy, or a cat. There is an interesting juxtaposition of seeing the same things through the eyes of an adult and a young child, helped by the illustrations by Nadyozhna. The adult sees an old and infirm woman using a Zimmer frame to walk, and the child sees the endless fun of playing different games with her granny. The granny gently helps her granddaughter to understand about old age and the inevitability of death. This book helps young children explore different kinds of emotions, including joy, happiness, sadness, and grief. (Recommended by Natalia Racheyskova)

Published by Ranok, 2019. English sample available to download, translated by Ranok. For rights enquiries, contact Maria Pankratova See here for the Ranok rights catalogue.


101 Lighthouses (101 маяк)

By Oksana Lushchevska and Dzmitry Bandarenka

This is a story of a young boy Zakhar, who can’t sleep at night, in solidarity with his architect father, who works late into the night developing plans for a new residential district. Zakhar pretends that the house opposite, where his friend Lev lives, is a big lighthouse. He imagines how different people are sleeping, including his friend Lev with his cat Bublik, and Zakhar’s own mother. Still unable to sleep, Zakhar recollects his trip to the man-made Kyiv Reservoir, known as Kiev Sea, where he saw a real lighthouse. Zakhar’s father finally comes to say “Good night”, and tells Zakhar to count lighthouses, instead of the traditional sheep, to help him go to sleep.  The book is beautifully illustrated in a way that resembles a light and pleasant dream. The randomness in the way the text is laid out in the book also adds to its charm. (Recommended by Natalia Racheyskova)

Published by Ranok, 2019. English sample available to download, translated by Ranok. For rights enquiries, contact Maria Pankratova See here for the Ranok rights catalogue.


Illustrated nonfiction

A Cool History of Ukraine: From Dinosaurs till Now (Крута історія України. Від динозаврів до сьогодні)

By Inna Kovalyshena and Halyna Chepurna

This beautifully illustrated book tells the history of Ukraine from ancient times until the present day through the voices of four friends coming from different corners of the country. Just like many kids, they originally thought that history was boring and exists only in textbooks. But a discovery they make on one summer day—a mollusk fossil dug out on the lakeshore—pushes them to explore the history of their homeland. It all turns into a quest that shows them that history is much more fascinating—and much closer to them—than they think. What kind of dinosaurs lived in Ukraine? Who fought for Ukraine’s independence? Why were the Cossacks so glorious? These are just some of the questions they explore.  

Published by My Bookshelf Publishing House, 2021. Illustrated sample available to download, translated by Hanna Leliv. For rights enquries, please contact Hanna: See here for the My Bookshelf rights catalogue.


Horses and My Uncle’s Portrait (Коні та портрет мого дядька)

By Valentyna Kyrylova and Tetiana Kaliuzhna

The protagonist of this book, a Ukrainian teenager Platon Goryn, wins the national competition in French language and is awarded a two-week trip to France. Together with Maryse, a girl from his Parisian host family, Platon ‘meets’ some world-famous artists hailing from Ukraine. They explore a wide range of art styles: avant-garde, cubism, and many more. Wandering along the streets and museums of Paris, they discover the art of Davyd Burliuk, founding father of futurism, Alexandra Exter, Sonia Delaunay, and others. But that’s not all. The two heroes of this artfully designed book are also on a mission to uncover the mystery of an art diary of a Ukrainian who knew those legendary artists in person. This is a real gem showing that Ukrainian art has long been part of the wider European art landscape, and Ukraine has been home to some of the finest artists in the world.  

Published by My Bookshelf Publishing House, 2021. Illustrated sample available to download, translated by Hanna Leliv. For rights enquries, please contact Hanna Leliv: See here for the My Bookshelf rights catalogue.


Shelter Diary or a War Sketchbook

By Olga Grebennik

“I didn’t think I would have to start everything from the beginning at my age.” Illustrator Olga Grebennik opens with these words. She woke up at 5 am on February 24 to the sound of bombing. She had to pack her bags and run down to the basement of their apartment block without knowing what was going on. Thousands have lost their lives in this devastating war, and many more have been uprooted. The same was true for Grebennik, from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she and her family were when the bombing started. Grebennik kept a sketchbook recording the emotionally charged days of the Russian siege on her country and her city.

This remarkable book was published first in Korea by Munhakdongne in April 2022, then in Italy in May 2022, as Diario di guerra (War Diary) from Caissa Italia Editore. It hasn’t appeared in book format in Ukraine, where it is now impossible to print books; printing factories have been bombed. The sketches are from Grebennik’s family’s first 8 days of life in the bomb shelter, her safe escape from Kharkiv and evacuation to Bulgaria.

Although Grebennik usually works in paint – rich, intricately detailed folkloric abound on her Instagram account – during this war, her only tools were pencils and paper. “Shooting on the street outside. It’s right next to my house.” (February 27) “A missile fell next door. My belly is cramped with fear. The time I spend at home is getting shorter as the days go by.”(February 28) “We’ve become cockroaches in six days of underground life” (March 1).

You can see some of Grebennik’s moving sketches on her Instagram account, and in this extract (in Russian) here. For more information and rights enquiries, please contact Grebennik directly.


Reactors Don’t Explode: A Short History of the Chornobyl Disaster (Реактори не вибухають. Коротка історія Чорнобильської катастрофи)

By Stanislav Dvornytskyi and Kateryna Mikhalitsyna

This is stunning, bold, illustrated nonfiction at its very best. This book is perfect for readers aged 10+ who are curious to know more about the causes and the impact – social, environmental, political – of one of Europe’s greatest post-war catastrophes: the 1986 disaster at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, then part of the USSR. Written clearly and in presented in manageable bite-sized chapters, broken up by extensive illustrations, maps, text boxes and infographics, this book doesn’t dumb down the science of nuclear reactors and radiation, and makes perfect reading for environmentally conscious teens keen to explore the political arguments at stake when we weigh up energy policy and sustainable development.

Published by Portal Books, 2020. Selected for the White Raven Catalogue in 2021. Winner of the following awards: Best Book Design Award from the Book Arsenal in the Children’s Book category; Best Book Award 2020 from BookForum in the category “Literature for teenagers and young adults”. On PEN Ukraine’s list of best books published in Ukraine in 2020. Shortlisted for the Ukrainian award “Book of the Year” 2020.

English sample translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Anna Walden, available on request via Images from the book can be seen in this YouTube video and here in this review. For rights enquiries, please contact, or Kateryna Mihalitsyna See here for the Portal Rights Guide.


On The Move / Here, There and Everywhere (Куди і звідки)

By Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv

More fascinating and stylishly presented non-fiction from creator duo Romanyshyn and Lesiv, aka Agrafka Studio. With 3 books already translated into English, these are the Ukrainian children’s book translators who are best represented in English translation. But they still have more amazing books to bring out in English!

The universe is ever on the move: Nothing in it remains completely at rest. Movement is natural: The Earth, the water on it, the atmosphere, the continents, and all living organisms exist in a state of constant motion. We walk, run, jump, crawl, swim, and fly. We travel. This book is about movement and travel — not only by people, but also that of animals, plants, the wind, water, and our planet. It describes journeys for the purpose of trade and commerce, journeys for the purpose of pleasure and repose or for survival, as well as scientific expeditions and pilgrimages. It’s about migrations, maps, navigation, and, finally, about finding one’s one path. The one word that a traveler most often hears in his travels is “where.” “Where are you heading to?”, “Where are you coming from?” This book is a visual and intellectual expedition through thousands of years of movement, in search of answers to these as well as many other questions.

Published by Old Lion Publishing House (Stary Lev), 2020. For rights enquiries, contact Ivan Fedechko at Old Lion: See the Old Lion Children’s Rights Guide here.

Middle Grade Fiction

Bo the Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon (Єнотик Бо і повітряна куля)

By Iryna Lazutkina and Rostyslav Popskyi

Bo is an ordinary raccoon. But unlike his family members, who have the most ordinary of dreams, Bo the Raccoon dreams big: he wants to become a balloonist. So he enrolls in the Forest School of Aeronautics to make his dream come true. One day, Bo and his friend Ohm the Mole set off on a journey in a giant hot air balloon piloted by Bo alone. However, they get into an air crash and find themselves on a deserted island. Will the two friends manage to return before the opening of the Montgolfière Hot Air Balloon Festival, will their teacher Ace forgive the little raccoon, and will Bo be able to give a pink cloud to his friend Aya as a gift? A dynamic adventure story that helps children understand the importance of friendship, bravery, and the ability to pursue your goals and be yourself.

Published by Old Lion (Stary Lev), 2019. 104 pages, illustrated chapter book, ages 6–9. English sample available from TAULT: For rights enquiries, contact Ivan Fedechko,


The Union of Soviet Things (Союз радянських речей)

By Petro Yatsenko and Nastia Omelych

Childhood in the late Soviet Union was not what it is now. The realia are not entirely clear to modern adolescents: waiting for nuclear war, propaganda, shortages, awkward household items. The main characters – a teenager Matvii and his father Petro – go to Lviv to visit grandmother. There are still heaps of Soviet things in her ceiling cabinet, and things are good at telling stories. The book gives a reason to talk about feelings of nostalgia and values.

Published by Portal Books, 2020. 152 pages, partially illustrated middle grade novel, ages 10+. English sample available to download below, translated by Ali Kinsella for TAULT. Rights enquiries: Nadiyka Gerbish,


Мox Nox

By Tanja Maljartschuk and Katya Slonova

The first middle-grade book from award-winning adult prose writer Tanja Maljartschuk, Mox Nox (from the Latin “here comes the night”) is a somber, strange, and marvelously creepy dystopian novella. Set in a time when humans have mysteriously disappeared from the earth, the now-abandoned ruins of cities are populated by a civilization of bat-like creatures, some real and some fictionalized. The young Pteropus Teresa, a fruit-eating flying foxling living in a city designed for two-legged beings, struggles with coming-of-age questions regarding identity, integrity, authority, and individuality, discovering the value of friendship and being true to oneself. A tale for both young and old, Mox Nox is a spine-tingling exploration of age-old questions in a dark and eerie world intricately devised by Tanja and stunningly illustrated by Katya Slonova.

Published by Old Lion (Stary Lev), 2018. 120 pages, illustrated middle grade novel, ages 10+. Shortlisted for the 2018 BBC Children’s Book of the Year Award (Ukraine). Selected for the 2018 White Ravens’ Catalogue. English sample available to download, translated by Zenia Tompkins: For rights enquiries, contact Ivan Fedechko at Old Lion:

More information


We extend our thanks to Natalia Racheyskova, Hanna Leliv, Ekaterina Shatalova, Anna Walden and Zenia Tompkins, and to all the publishers, for your help in compiling this list, and for sharing your blurbs and translation samples.

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