5 brilliant must-read children's books by Russian authors

Published on: 28 September 2018

Author Yulia Yakovleva tells us about her favourite books in English by Russian authors. Take a look...

Yulia Yakovleva is the author of The Raven’s Children, which was a BookTrust In Other Words title in 2017.

A popular book in Russia, it's a gripping blend of historical fiction and magical realism, set during the times of Stalin – and the children's book is now available in the UK for the very first time, published by Penguin and translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. 

Why not see if your child will step into another country and culture, with these book recommendations from Yulia below...

1. How Does a Lighthouse Work?

Roman Belyaev

Roman Belyaev answers the title's question with nearly 50 pages of charmingly beautiful images. Russia may be a big territory, but its coastlines are actually not very long at all. Therefore, for most Russian children, lighthouses are more a fascinating concept than a real object. I believe this may be different for English children but no doubt Belyaev's book will give equal pleasure to both.

2. Alphabetabum

Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunsky

Russian-born illustrator Vladimir Radunsky collected vintage photos of children. He had no idea who they were, whom their parents were, what they liked or what games they played. Well, this was until the writer Chris Raschka looked closely at each photo and enriched each with an enchanting rhyme or two. Sadly, Radunsky passed away recently but luckily left behind so many beautiful books, and they are going to have a very long life indeed.

3. The Real Boat

Marina Aromshtam, illustrated by Victoria Semykina

A little paper boat starts a big journey upon the wide ocean. It meets many different boats and even a few sheep along the way, but not one of them recognises it as a "real" boat. One day, it gets swept away in a storm and is rescued by an old sailor who gives it a name. A wise and heartwarming story by famous Russian children writer Marina Aromshtam and wonderfully illustrated by award-winning Victoria Semykina, a Russian-born illustrator who lives in Italy. Victoria is a truly amazing artist and I cannot stop looking at the visual poetry of her pictures.

4. Catlantis

Anna Starobinets

Starobinets writes about what we all have suspected for a long time: all cats are otherworldly beings and come from a secret place. According to Anna, it was Kotlantida, a land which disappeared beneath the ocean one day and left cats with superpowers. Anna mostly writes for adults, and is best known in Russian as a science fiction author. There is so much fantasy and imagination in this children's book that is impossible to close until you reach the final page.

5. In the Wolf’s Lair: A Beastly Crimes Book

Anna Starobinets

Another from Anna Starobinets, who opened up for Russian readers such a genre as a crime novel for children. All the characters in her crime stories are animals that act and speak like children. So funny, so vivid, so cool – it takes you from the very first page.

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