If I were a child


by nickhaywardIf I were a child, a tiny child born in Ukraine, I would have loads of advantages. Imagine, I begin to talk, and then to walk. And this is where my first books are waiting for me, them being Ivan Andrusyak’sKotyky ta kytsi (Cats and Kitties) and Zviryacha abetka (Animals’ ABC), and Ivan Malkovych’sABC-book. But a person can’t live on abecedaries, can one?


The child — meaning me — is growing, and books aren’t the stuff to nibble and rumble anymore, but things to look at and through, and to experiment with reading words from them. At first I do not really read, but rather recall from my Mom’s and Dad’s bedtime stories — as they read to me Ivan Maklkovych’sVelyke misto, malenky zaichyk, abo Med dlya mamy (Big City Little Rabbit, or Some Honey for Mom), and Yaroslav Pavlyuk’s Budynochok v yakomu nikhto ne spyt (The House Where None Is Sleeping), and in Christmas time Malkovych’s Zoloty pavuchok (Golden Spider). In our small Ukrainian town lived Dad, Mom and their three little kids — Tarasyk, Nastusya and Ilchyk; when Christmas came, they would rent a cart and a horse with golden mane and go to the forest, and once such an amazing thing happened to them… that someone would have to read the whole story to me again, or else I won’t sleep.


Мар’яна СавкаOh, and now there’s kindergarten, the thing they call the Infant school, though I am not an infant already, and I don’t want to sleep amidst a day during after dinner rest but would rather throw a pillow at my friend Halya. Halya has such great books (if she didn’t, I wouldn’t throw things at her), and when she gets tired of having me beating her with my pillow, she’ll read to me a bit. Yesterday she read Marjana Savka. I’ve got no idea who this Marjana Savka is, save that she must be living in a zoo — as she knows such a lot of stories about animals! Yesterday Halya read me some rhymes about a cow. The title of that book was Korova kolyorova (Multicolored Cow) because it was a colouring book. I would have taken the book away from Halya, but she had already coloured everything herself. And so I asked Mom to buy me some Marjana Savka of my own.


And today Mom has brought me a book called Chy ye v babuiyna babusya? (Has a Baboon Got a Granny). I have never heard of baboons having grannies and granddads, but now I know they do! And that was a book by Marjana Slavka too, and it took me two days to paint all the pictures, and Mom promised to buy some more. And she did! It was again a book about animals, though I didn’t understand about whom exactly. The title was Chudove chudovysko (Marvelous Monster) by Sashko Dermanskiy, and that was when I read about a girl named Sonya who met a monster named Chu, and that was a beginning of a love story.


by alliegiesAnd then it’s time to go to school. At school you are made learn poems by heart, and I don’t like them, and Mom says that I can learn one poem from those that the teacher tells me to, and one by my own choice. That’s how I learned Skoromovka ne dlya vovka (A Tongue-twister Not for Wolves) by Grytsko Chubay, and got tangled at the lesson and recited this one instead of the poem set by the teacher. It was such a fun! The teacher grew angry and told me off, but the class loved the tongue-twister a lot, though they all had to recite that another poem and I became a hero of the day.


As the first-year pupil I began to write some tales myself. I’m not kidding! Once they say there was a TV programme in which wonderful Granddad Panas used to tell bedtime stories for kids. The program is no more, but Granddad Panas’ tales are still here (though no one ever tried publishing them). Nevertheless, I was writing tales, and Mom would read them and laugh. Funny stories they were, the ones that I wrote — sometimes even I laughed until cry in the process. And one day Mom bought an extremely interesting book written by Bohdan Zholdak. In fact he writes for adults, but that was something incredible — a book called Kazkaryk, abo Kazkovy konstruktor (Storyteller, or How to Make a Story). I started to read, and my writing went much faster. I wrote tales one after another, and Mom simply couldn’t manage to read them all, so I read my stories to her when she was back home from work, before she went to bed. But once I decided to publish them, Mom said there was a crunch. A credit crisis or something like that. It meant they couldn’t print my tales, but I went on writing them nevertheless.


When Mom grew completely tired of my tales and they didn’t make her laugh anymore, and I was running short of ideas, she began bringing me books from the Zhytya vidomykh ditey (Famous Children) series. In the series adult authors are writing about famous people as children — what meals they used to love and what games, how they used to dance, or sing, or paint and how they won the day. There are stories of Johnny Depp and Hans Christian Andersen, of Louis Boussenard and Archimedes, of Taras Shevchenko and Hryhory Skovoroda.


And practically all ‘adult’ authors who have told stories of famous children have also written tales for younger readers. The one I really loved was Iren Rozdobud’ko’sKoly ozhyvaut lyalky (When Dolls Are Coming to Life) — about spirits that dwell in cups and dishes, gnomes making the seasons change and placing the stars at the sky and, well, dolls becoming alive. They also say that Svitlana Povaljajeva’stales are very different from those by Larysa Denysenko or Ljubko Deresh. I know nothing about that. Mom reads Povalyayeva, but won’t give her books to me as she says I’m too young to read them. Well, I don’t really want to — the covers are creepy, and besides there’s nothing about Lyalechka.


Do you know who Lyalechka is? It’s from a story of friendship between a boy nicknamed Lyalechka and fox that was a painter. The book is entitled Lyalechka and Matsko and written by Halyna Pahutyak. Mom says that she must be a woman of great beauty and talent. One of the most famous Ukrainian rock ballads Vona (She) was dedicated to Halyna.


Kateryna Lebedeva is said to take drugs before sitting down to her writing. That’s why she writes such wonderful tales, like the one entitled Ptakha Korabel (The Ship Bird), which also has the online version Ptaha.name.


After having read The Ship Bird and more of such stuff, I told Mom I wanted some detective stories. So she brought me some Odd Detective. Dunno why it’s Odd, but such is the series name. The best one to my liking was Oles Ilchenko’s Komanda-14. Pastka dlya heymera (Team-14. A Trap for a Gamer). I’m increasingly using the Internet, so need to know more about strangers from the digital world. Sometimes you feel so tempted to steal what doesn’t belong to you, to leave all your friends and join some secret Order… but everything has its cost, and sometimes, as I know now, the cost is too dear.


Havrylo Gava, Nina Voron, Olena Verbna — all these named are pseudonyms of one and the same person — Lesya Voronyna. She has written loads of ironical detective stories for children in the Superagent 000 series: U paschi krokodyla (In the Crocodile’s Jaws), Pastka u pidzemeli (The Dungeon Trap), Tayemnytsya pidvodnoho mista (The Secret of the Underwater City), V zaliznykh netryakh (In Thicket of Iron) and Tayemnytsya zolotoho kenhuru (The Secret of the Gold Kangaroo); and adventure books Pryhody holuboho papuhy (Adventures of the Blue Parrot), Hluys ta inshi (Hlyus and the Others), and Tayemnytsya Chornoho ozera (A Secret of the Black Lake). Ms Lesya’s various exploration and detective stories have a lot to do with her hobby, which is writing scripts for comics in the Sonyashnyk magazine. Mom said that recently two more books by Ms Lesya had been published, Prybulets z krayini Nyamlykiv (Stranger from the Land of Nyamlyks) and Nyamlyk i balakucha kvitka (Nyamlyk and the Talkative Flower). I was so curios about nyamlyks and their country that eventually Mom had to buy both books. Nyamlyks turned out to be a race of tiny funny creatures who live inside house walls and above all things adore cooked semolina. Mom said there even had been a play about nyamlyks staged in one school theatre.


Once I told Mom that I liked Pippi Longstocking, and the next day she brought me a book that was a lot like Pippi. The author, Dmytro Keshelya, lives in Carpathian Ruthenia, and the book’s title is Marmalada. This is a story of a village, where boy Mytryk, goat Tankistka, teacher Fyisa and Granny with Granddad live. The village is small, but there are so many things happening there! I was laughing like crazy.


Later Sashko Dermanskiy, a children detective prose author, became my favorite writer. He wrote Korol bukiv, abo Tayemnytsya Smarahdovoyi knyhy (The Beech King or Secret of the Emerald Book) and Volodar Makutsy abo Pryhody Vuzha Onyska (The Lord of Makutsa or Adventures of Onysko the Adder), telling of awful things happening in the world and big mysteries of mankind solved by means of detective skill. After I read Babusya oholoshuye viynu (Granny Declares War) by Dermanskiy, I know that grannies can be not so nice too, no matter if they are baboon or human grannies.


Well, now the child — me — grew to be not a child at all, but a teenager (what a silly word). Mom said that that I was old enough to read some «fantasy for younger readers» and offered me Serhiy Oksenyk’s Lisom, nebom, vodoyu. Lysyi. Knyha 1 (Through Woodland, Sky and Sea. The Bald. Book 1) andLisom, nebom, vodoyu. Lelya. Knyha 2 (Through Woodland, Sky and Sea. Lelya. Book 2). There’s a curious story behind this book. Once Serhiy Oksenyk (his real name is Serhiy Ivanyuk, he is professor in the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy) found an abandoned time-machine with a scroll inside, which he then deciphered. The scroll must have been a huge one, as Oksenyk have already deciphered enough to amount about 500 pages for two books, and who knows how much more of text he may decipher or discover…

Oksenyk’s books are easy reading. The story is set in a distant future. After an ecological disaster the humanity is almost extinct, civilization did bite the dust although some people still live only in remote villages surrounded with now huge forest. I can’t say what kind of disaster that was, but all the characters — children — are a sort of mutants. The Bald can physically feel a danger approaching, Lelya cries with life-giving water and Marichka is able to understand the tongue of any human, beast or bird, and even Baba Yaha’s mortar. The story begins with The Bald setting from his village to find the Ruin (place much reminding Kyiv) where he hopes to get a powder that makes water potable. He encounters with immense worms living underground, werewolves, Baba Yaha the witch, Lishak the forest monster, and other adventures follow. Arriving to the Ruin, The Bald meets immortal Engineer and learns that no powder is needed and simply digging a well is the solution. In the second book trouble is brewing in the village and someone is scheming against the children. They have to hide from Chata the watcher, worms and otters and, most dangerous of all, humans. In the end the village stands a battle against werewolves and wins due to intelligence and wits of the children. Everyone is happy, though Lelya has to shed many tears to revive those who have been slain.


Fantasy appeared to be pretty cool, so I start seeking for such books. And bought Mech koroliv (Sword of Kings) by Serhiy Baturyn, the first book in the Lehendy inshoyi Tery (Legends of another Terra) series. Sword of Kings leaves you looking forward to the continuation of the story, as there are war, love and farewell, and mysterious ships suddenly emerging from the depth of the sea, and the legend of the prahngs, people said to descent from the sky. The heir of the lord of prahngs is to become the king, but just before the ceremony the sacred Sword of Kings is stolen and taken to the rival kingdom. Adventures follow there.


When I told my friend Irka about this book, she told me about Leonid Kononovych. He writes for adults, but Irka has got it from the web that Kononovych’s Chorna hora (Black Mountain) historical fantasy series for younger readers is appearing soon.


Yesterday a neighbor of mine came back from England, having spent five years there. He says no one in England ever heard of Ukrainian authors, and I feel so sorry about English children who have no opportunity to read these beautiful books. Can it be that no one there can translate them from Ukrainian?


And today I have failed the examination that Irka had with. She’s been asking me if I knew so-and-so Ukrainian authors writing children books, but I could remember but a few names. So Irka called me a barbarian and said she wouldn’t talk to me until I read them all. So know I’m going to the bookstore, and when I read something new, I’ll tell you. No kidding.