Contemporary Ukrainian Picture Books as Global Cultural Ambassadors

Anastasia Ulanowicz, University of Florida

The purpose of this paper is to argue that Ukrainian children’s picture books, much like the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014 and the current wartime presidency of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have played a substantial role in transforming popular global perceptions of Ukraine. Within the past decade, high quality picture books and illustrated books such as Serhij Zhukov’s, Marija Tachtaulova’s and Zhenja Myronjuk’s Ukraina (2021) have been featured in the esteemed White Ravens catalogue assembled annually by the International Youth Library in Munich and presented at the Bologna Children’s Fair. Likewise, works by Art Studio Agrafka, consisting of Romana Romanyshyn and Andrij Lesiv, have received many prestigious awards, including the 2014 Opera Prima Award Mention, the 2015 New Horizons Mention, and the 2018 Bologna Ragazzi Award. These books and countless others have been translated not only into English, French, German, and Polish but also into Bengali, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Children’s picture books, this paper argues, serve as ideal cultural ambassadors for a country long known only as a “former Soviet republic” and more recently associated with war and political upheaval. On the one hand, these books’ primary reliance on visual imagery render them particularly accessible to global audiences who might appreciate their aesthetic sophistication and relatively universal narratives of growth and discovery. On the other hand, however, such texts demonstrate a characteristic visual style and an emphasis on cultural themes that renders them distinctively Ukrainian. Produced in order to appeal to both children and their adult caregivers, these books have the potential to transform older generations’ preconceived notions of Ukraine even as they invite rising generations to associate this country with expressions of creativity and cultural distinction.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 220. Children as Readers and Consumers