Russian Language and Culture Kit
Apartment: A Century of Russian History. Litvina, Alexandra. Desnitskaya, Anna, Ill. Bouis, Antonia, translator. Abrams, 2016. ISBN: 9781419734038. Explains the history of 20th century Russia through the fictional story of a Moscow family and their six-room apartment. Large, detailed illustrations show the transformations of the apartment over six generations of the family and reflect the larger social and political changes in Russia. Includes a timeline and glossary and a search-and-find element.
At the Wish of the Fish: A Russian Folktale. Lewis, J. Patrick. Krénina, Katya, Ill. Atheneum, 1999. ISBN: 9780689813368. In this classic Russian tale, lazy Emelya catches an enchanted fish. The pike promises to grant Emelya his every wish if he will pitch the fish back into the sea. Emelya tests the promise by asking for split firewood and water hauled to his home, and soon the villagers are amazed by his powers. In the rest of the story, Emelya falls in love with the Tsar’s daughter, and uses magic wishes to win her hand.
Baba Yaga and the Stolen Baby. Laurie, Alison. Souhami, Jessica, Ill. Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781845077532. In this retelling of the classic Russian folktale, black geese have been seen flying over the village, stealing children for the witch Baba Yaga. Elena should have been watching her baby brother, but instead, she runs off to play with her friends, leaving the baby alone in the grass. The geese snatch him, and now Elena must figure out how to get him back.
Bear and the Fox: A Russian Fairytale. Shcherbakova, Irina. Ill. St. Petersburg Publishing, 2007. ISBN: 9781427617415. This Russian fairytale is about a kind-hearted Bear and a greedy Fox. When the Fox learns that the Bear has a tub of honey, she tricks him into letting her stay at his house for a few days. Every night she steals a bit of honey until there is nothing left. When Bear finds out and blames the Fox for stealing, Fox manages to trick Bear into apologizing. A dual-language book in English and Russian. Translated by Julian Lowenfeld.
Blue Bird’s Palace. Lellemand, Orianne. Henaff, Carole, Ill. Strickland, Tessa, translator. Barefoot Books, 2016. ISBN: 9781846868856. Breathtaking acrylic painting and Russian storytelling traditions frame this contemporary fairy tale about bluebird who grants a greedy girl’s wish to have her own palace. Her transformation from materialism to gratefulness provides a powerful tale, set in 19th century Russia.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Yelchin, Eugene. Henry Holt, 2011. ISBN: 9780805092165. Sasha idolizes Comrade Stalin, and his dream is to become a Young Soviet Pioneer. But the day before the ceremony, State Security comes for his father. Sasha assumes it must all be a mistake, and though he is now alone on the street, he goes to school the next day for the Young Pioneer ceremony, assuming his father will be there. Everything goes wrong; he hits a classmate, and accidently breaks the nose off of Stalin’s statue. In just one day, Sasha realizes that he no longer wants to become a Young Pioneer.
Doctor Ouch. Chukovsky, Kornei. Seabaugh, Jan, Ill. Smith Publishing, 2004. ISBN: 9780974055107. In this popular children’s poem, Doctor Ouch (Doktor Aibolit in the original) tells the story of a kind and compassionate veterinarian who travels from Russia to Africa to save the jungle animals. Translated by Jan Seabaugh.
Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia. Fleming, Candace. Random House, 2014. ISBN: 9780375867828. Incorporating primary sources, such as diaries and letters, this nonfiction book contrasts the privileged lives of Tsar Nicholas II and his family with the impoverished lives of peasants and workers. The years of oppression and deprivation led to a revolution that resulted in the murders of the Romanov family. Photographs and text convey rich details about Romanovs, insights into other figures such as Lenin, and first had accounts from ordinary Russians.
Fox and the Wolf: A Russian Fairytale. Shcherbakova, Irina, Ill. St. Petersburg Publishing, 2008. ISBN: 9781427632753. This Russian fairytale is about a simple-minded Wolf and a cunning Fox. Fox can trick anyone, but so far the Wolf has been the easiest mark. Even after the Fox plays a prank, which costs the Wolf to lose his tail, poor Wolf remains as susceptible to the Fox’s tricks as ever. Translated by Julian Henry Lowenheld.
Haxogka. Sergey, Chertkov. Adonis, Yabloko Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 978864155370. A small child finds a puppy shivering in the rain and brings him home. He would like to keep him, his father is uncertain, but agrees. Both the boy and the puppy enjoy going on adventures together, like searching out an illusive cat. This book is written in Russian.
Joseph Stalin. McCollum, Sean. Scholastic, 2010. ISBN: 9780531223550. This short biography of Russian leader Joseph Stalin describes his efforts to turn the Soviet Union into a world power at an unimaginable cost to Soviet people. He uprooted millions of peasants and starved millions to death in addition to executing his enemies and filled prison camps with Soviet Citizens. Read this book alongside Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin.
Kolobok. ISBN: 9785353045496. In a variation of the Gingerbread Boy, Kolobok (Little Round Bun) is a traditional Russian folk tale about a restless little bun who comes to life and escapes from the “old man and the old woman.” From the dough I was made, in the oven I was baked, on the window I was bored, down the trail I jumped and rolled, clever Kolobok I’m called. This book is written in Russian.
Little Humpbacked Horse: A Russian Tale. Winthrop, Elizabeth. Koshkin, Alexander, Ill. Clarion, 1997. ISBN: 9780395653616. This classic Russian folktale is about a young peasant, who with the help of his faithful and magical humpbacked horse, captures magical beasts, outsmarts the greedy Tsar, marries the beautiful Tsarevna, and becomes the Tsar of Russia.
Masha and the Bear: A Russian Fairytale. Gavrilova, Marina, Ill. St. Petersburg Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780692511459. Masha begs her grandparents to let her go into the forest with her friends, but they soon become separated. Masha finds a log hut in the forest and decides to go inside, not knowing it belongs to a bear. The bear is delighted, and warns Masha never to leave the hut. Masha now has to quickly devise a plan to trick the bear and get back home. Translated by Mikhail Kholodov.
Milet Picture Dictionary: English-Russian. Turhan, Sedat & Hagin, Sally. Milet Publishing, 2003. ISBN: 9781840593587. Useful, everyday words are grouped into subjects so that children can focus on one set of related words at a time, while games such as word searches, jumbles, and matches help make learning fun.
My First Book of Russian Words. Kudela, Katy R. Capstone, 2010. ISBN: 9781429639170. How do you say hello in Russian? Explore the pages of this Russian – English picture dictionary to learn new words and phrases. Colorful photographs and simple labels make learning Russian fun.
My First Workbook of Russian Alphabet. Garcia, Natalie. Blurb Books, 2010. ISBN: Self-Published. This is a fun and interactive Russian language beginner workbook for children ages 5+. The workbook features beautiful pictures and bright-colored words and letters, which are used to introduce children to the Russian alphabet, correct letter pronunciation, and commonly used words.
Nose. Gogol, Nikolai. Spirin, Gennady, Ill. David R. Godine Publishers, 1993. ISBN: 9780879239633. One day, a nose disappears from the Deputy Inspector’s face. This is just the beginning! The civil servant looks everywhere for his nose and finally spots it… parading the streets of St. Petersburg dressed as an officer. This is a classic satirical story originally written in 1835-1836.
Ochen’ golodnaia gusenitsa. Carle, Eric. Rozovyi Zhiraf Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 9785903497232. This is the traditional story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that tells readers about the life of a caterpillar from egg to butterfly. This book teaches first words in Russian in a story format that teaches the days of the week, numbers and counting, and names of some foods.
Peter Tchaikovsky. Venezia, Mike. Children’s Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780516045375. Clever illustrations and story lines give readers a light yet realistic overview of the life and music of Russian composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) This is a biography of the composer who wrote the music for several ballets, including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker Suite.
Philipok. Tolstoy, Leo. Spirin, Gennedy, Ill. Philomel, 2000. ISBN: 9780399234828. Young Philipok wants nothing more than to go to school with his elder brother, Peter. He waits until his grandmother falls asleep, takes his hat and coat off the peg, and sets out through the snow to the schoolhouse on the other side of the village. Cold and frightened when he arrives, he earns the privilege of staying at school. Set in 19th century Russia. Retelling by Ann Keay Beneduce.
Pup Grew Up! Marshak, Samuel. Radunsky, Vladimir, Ill. Henry Holt, 1989. ISBN: 9780805009521. This is a translation of a humorous poem written in the 1920s. A woman traveling by train registers a number of her belongings with the conductor… including her Pekingese. Along the way the dog is left behind and a Great Dane substituted. When the astonished woman claims her belongings, the train conductor has a very funny way of explaining what happened. Translated by Richard Pevear.
Rooster with a Golden Crown: A Russian Fairytale. Shcherbakova, Irina, Ill. St. Petersburg Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 9780578054155. This Russian fairytale is about a simple-minded Rooster, his friends, and a cunning Fox. Fox is trying to lure Rooster out of his house, so she could steal him. Every time, Rooster falls for her tricks! Lucky for Rooster, his friends – Cat and Thrush – are always ready to save him. Dual-language –Russian and English. Translated into English by Julian Lowenfeld.
Royal Ride: Catherine the Great’s Great Invention. Fulton, Kristen. Fleming, Lucy, Ill. Scholastic 2019. ISBN: 9781481496575. Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, loved the snowy winters of her country, especially the giant ice slides that provided daring drips and thrilling rides. Her desire to ensure fun all year round led to the invention of the first roller coaster.
Russia. Hunt, Jilly. Heinemann, 2012. ISBN: 9781432961367. his overview of Russia offers complete coverage of this fascinating country, including sections on history, geography, wildlife, infrastructure and government, and culture. It also includes maps graphs, recipes, Russian language phrases, flags, a quick reference fact file, timeline, and suggestions for further research.
Russia ABCs: A Book about the People and Places of Russia. Berge, Ann. Yesh, Jeff, Ill. Picture Window Books, 2004. ISBN: 9781404803602. Take an alphabetical exploration of the people, geography, animals, plants, history, and culture of Russia.
Russian Picture Word Book. Rogers, Svetlana. Steadman, Barbara, Ill. Dover Publications, 2003. ISBN: 9780486426716. Learn over 500 common Russian words through pictures in 15 scenes. Each scene is a different theme or topic and contains dozens of familiar objects all clearly identified by Russian words. A complete list of all the Russian words and their English translation is located at the back.
Sasha and Babushka: A Story of Russia. Evans, Cornelia. Shpitalnik, Valdimir, Ill. Soundprints, 2006. ISBN: 9781592494439. It is Sasha’s birthday and her grandmother has a wonderful surprise for her, a trip to Moscow to see a puppet show! Sasha and her grandmother journey by train from a small town in Russia to visit the famous landmarks of her country’s capital. This book provides a unique insight into a different culture, and a sense of what life might be like for a child growing up in Russia.
Silly Horse. Levin, Vadim. Antonenkov, Evgeny, Ill. Pumpkin House, Ltd., 2005. ISBN: 9780964601017. A collection of humorous, nonsensical poems. The language is playful and light, and most of the entries are just a few stanzas long. These comical poems fooled thousands of children and their parents with their Russian flavor and British style; many even became popular song lyrics.
A Symphony of Whales. Schuch, Steve. Sylvada, Peter, Ill. HMH Books, 2002. ISBN: 9780152165482. Glashka has the mysterious power to hear the songs of whales. When she discovers thousands of whales trapped in a rapidly freezing inlet, she knows it is up to her to gather the people of her town to help them. Together with her villagers and a crew of an icebreaker, the whales are rescued. Based on an actual event, this inspiring story follows Glashka and the villagers as they come to understand the importance of all life.
Tale of the Firebird. Spirin, Gennedy. Philomel, 2002. ISBN: 9780399235849. In all of the world there is said to be nothing more beautiful than the Firebird. When Ivan-Tsarevitch, youngest son of the Tsar, goes on a quest for the amazing bird, he is accompanied by a faithful wolf with magical powers. Ivan finds himself flying over mountains and woods, confronting a wicked Baba Yaga, and rescuing an enchanted princess from Koshchei the Immortal. But when he returns from his magical journey, Ivan brings home the most precious treasure of all. Gennedy Spirin retells this original version of the Firebird, which is translated by Tatiana Popova.
Telephone. Chukovsky, Kornei. Rudunsky, Vladimir, Ill. NorthSouth, 1996. ISBN: 9781558584808. In this classical, comical poem, the author tells the story of a man whose telephone begins to ring and ring and ring! Animals are making all sorts of requests: from doves wanting gloves, to baboons needing spoons. The man does his best to help them all, but some callers are really stretching the limits of his willingness to help. Tongue twisters galore! Translated by Jamie Gambrell.
Uncle Fedya, His Dog, and His Cat. Uspenski, Eduard. Shpitalnik, Vladimir, Ill. Knopf, 1993. ISBN: 9780679820642. A young boy named Uncle Fedya (because he was so serious), runs away from home when he finds Mr. Matroskin, a talking cat, but is not allowed to keep him. The two make a home in rural Milkville where Sharik, a talking dog, a tractor that runs on soup, and a portable plug-in sun join them. As they settle in, they make friends and enemies and embark on whimsical adventures. Meanwhile, his frantic parents follow every lead in their quest to find their missing boy.
Why? Popov, Nikolai. Minedition, 2021. ISBN: 9781662650833. A visual narrative that uses only visual images to convey a powerful story about war when a frog and a mouse argue over a flower, leading to escalating violence that destroys everything around them. Created by an artist based on his experiences during WWII of seeing so much destruction through war as a child in Russia.
A Year Without Mom. Tolstikova, Dasha. Groundwood Books, 2015. ISBN: 9781554986927. A Year Without Mom follows 12-year-old Dasha through a year full of turmoil after her mother leaves for America and leaves her with her grandparents. It is the early 1990s in Moscow, and political change is in the air. But Dasha is more worried about her own challenges as she negotiates family, friendships and school without her mother. Just as she begins to find her own feet, she gets word that she is to join her mother in America — a place that seems impossibly far from everything and everyone she loves. This gorgeous and subtly illustrated graphic novel signals the emergence of Dasha Tolstikova as a major new talent.