In the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the international publishing community has come together with a number of initiatives aimed at offering support to children’s authors, publishers, and aid organizations. Here, we continue to cover these ongoing efforts.
Just over two months since Russian forces invaded their country, more than five million Ukrainians have fled their homeland, according to UN reports. Around one half of those are estimated to be children. While refugee families have spread out around the world, more than half are currently displaced in Poland. Almost immediately after the war broke out, Polish literacy foundation Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania (Universal Reading Foundation) sprang into action to provide support for refugee children and Ukrainian publishers.
Building their existing network of publishing contacts, the foundation began receiving email files of children’s books from Ukrainian publishers, according to director Maria Deskur. Polish printers including Totem donated their services to print and distribute the books; publishers offered warehouse space and transportation. All of these services have been donations in kind. Nearly two months into the effort, the foundation has either received or been promised 88,000 books and close to 28,000 books are currently in the process of being printed. Now using the hashtag #BooksGiveRefuge for recognition, the foundation’s initiative is distributing books through Polish orphanages, day care centers, kindergartens, schools, libraries, and train stations where Ukrainian families are arriving, and, in some cases, sheltering for the short term.
Deskur said the foundation has raised a little more than $170,000 to date for the effort, funds that are going directly to Ukrainian publishers to help them stay afloat throughout this crisis. According to an April 22 report in Publishing Perspectives, Oleksander Afonin, president of the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association, reported that many of the country’s publishers, warehouses, printing houses, and bookstores have been destroyed by missiles, and most Ukrainian publishing professionals have been forced to flee.
To provide each refugee child in Poland with a book—Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania’s goal—would require $1 million. As the war continues and the refugee crisis intensifies, donations have slowed significantly, even as the need increases, Deskur said. “We now need to change to a long-term, well thought-through strategy. We need financial support in order to make that happen, obviously, but my hopes are high that we will be able to do so.”
Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda has pledged to provide transportation for book delivery going forward. Polish publishers including publisher Media Rodzina (Polish translator of the Harry Potter series) delivered Ukrainian translations of its bestselling KiciaKocia (Kitty, Kitty) series by Anita Głowińska. Printer Druk-Intro offered 4,000 packets of coloring and activity books and crayons. A Ukrainian translation of Hungarian author-illustrator Susan Batori’s Where Is the Toilet Paper? was provided by German publisher Baumhaus. More translations and print runs are in the works.
Publishers, Booksellers, Illustrators, and Authors Offer Support
While Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania’s initiative is at the forefront of providing books to Ukrainian refugee children, there are a number of other efforts underway.
With the support of the Federation of European Publishers and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Ukrainian Book Institute launched a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $32,000 in the past few weeks. The first 6,000 books funded by the campaign have gone to press.
Bookstores—both independents and chains—have introduced fundraising efforts to support a variety of charities benefiting kids both inside and outside Ukraine.
In Brooklyn, indie Books Are Magic offered Draw for Ukraine on April 23, an interactive event aimed at involving kids, families, and illustrators in raising money for UNICEF Ukraine and the NYC-based organization Razom for Ukraine. Created in partnership with Private Picassos—an arts education organization headed by Ukrainian American artist and educator Valeen Bhat—the event included a raffle for drawings donated by children’s book illustrators including Brian Floca, Melissa Iwai, Nora Krug, Julie Kwon, and Mika Song. During the event, illustrators worked alongside children to create drawings and messages of hope for refugee children.
In Dedham, Mass., Blue Bunny Books & Toys, owned by author and illustrator Peter Reynolds, has raised more than $20,000 for UNICEF’s effort to supply children in eastern Ukraine with material support including food, water, clothing, and medical care. Reynolds, the author of 85 books for children, created and sold a limited-edition print inspired by the Ukrainian flag and the country’s sunflower symbol, with all proceeds going to UNICEF. He continues to offer autographed copies of the print and digital downloads through his website.
On March 22, more than two dozen high-profile children’s authors participated in #KidLitforUkraine: Stories of Hope, an online event organized by author Marc Tyler Nobleman and KidLit TV. The event was a fundraiser for Save the Children’s efforts in Ukraine. Participants included Kathi Appelt, Dan Gutman, Donna Barba Higuera, Minh Lè, Neal Shusterman, and Rita Williams-Garcia, who offered readings and encouraging messages for kids and adults alike. #KidLitforUkraine included a live feed from Save the Children UK news director Dan Stewart along the Romanian-Ukrainian border and raised nearly $15,000 for that organization’s efforts for refugee children, which includes material support and medical care.
In the U.K., children’s publishers Gracie Cooper of Little Toller and Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose raised more than £75,000 to support their Packed with Hope initiative, which began delivering 10,000 backpacks to Ukrainian refugee children last week. Stuffed with scarves, hats, and water bottles in addition to activity and picture books, the backpacks are being distributed at sites along the Ukraine-Romanian border by the publishers and volunteers. Included in the backpacks are more than 40,000 books donated by U.K. publishers and printed by U.S. publishers. Waterstones recently announced its Read for Ukraine initiative—aimed at raising £1 million for Oxfam’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, but the current initiative centers on adult books.
Bonnier Books UK is donating all profits from Maya and Her Friends by author and activist Larysa Denysenko, illustrated by Masha Foya (both Ukrainian), to UNICEF. The book will also be published in Finland, Poland, and Germany. Also in the U.K., Kids Industries—a marketing agency—has partnered with Laura Helen Brown, author and illustrator of My Emotions Activity Book—a free, downloadable book aimed at helping children explore their feelings—to translate her book to Ukrainian and make it available to refugee children, partnering with DoxDirect.com for the downloads and printed hard copies, which the company is donating.
Enchanted Lion Books continues to raise funds from sales of How War Changed Rondo by Ukrainian husband-and-wife author-illustrator team Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, translated into English by Oksana Lushchevska. The proceeds will go to UNICEF’s Ukraine relief funds. The picture book, released last fall, tells the story of three children whose peaceful life is disrupted by war and ultimately offers a message of peace and hope. Numerous individual authors have offered proceeds to fundraising efforts, including adult mystery novelist Rick Bleiweiss (Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives, Blackstone) who is donating April sales proceeds to Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania’s efforts.
To donate to Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania’s #BooksGiveRefuge initiative, click here.
To donate to the Ukrainian Book Institute/Federation of European Publishers effort, click here.