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Children's Nonfiction Diversity & Multicultural

The Little Book

Story Reader for a Free Ukraine

by (author) Mykola Matwijczuk

introduction by Lorene Shyba

translated by Magda Stroinska & Volodymyr Shyba

illustrated by O. Kurelac

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Mar 2022
Diversity & Multicultural, Political Freedom, General, Peace
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 6 to 12
  • Grade: 1 to 7


To date (May 3, 2022) The Little Book has donated over $10,000 to the Canada Ukraine Foundation!

The Little Book was originally published in 1932 and made a vital contribution to the curriculum for Canadian-Ukrainian children in prairie schools. Besides containing alphabet letters and gorgeous illustrations, the book features charming parables and poems to help children from kindergarten to grade 9 to understand the Ukrainian language and culture. This special 2022 edition, reprinted to celebrate the Ukrainian diaspora, with proceeds to the Canada Ukraine Foundation, features an English translation of these lovely rhymes and verses. Slava Ukraini

The audiobook is available at



About the authors

Contributor Notes

Mykola Matwijczuk, author/editor, 1932 Edition. Deceased. Information not known about this author.

Lorene Shyba MFA PhD. About The Little Book she says, "My Babka, my loving grandmother, read me stories from this wondrous Little Book. This cherished volume has been with me through my entire life. I proudly present a re-vitalized edition of The Little Book to celebrate the resiliency of the Ukrainian people and our language. I am immensely proud of my partners at Friesens Printing in Winnipeg and Blitzprint in Calgary for donating the printing for The Little Book. Slava Ukraini."

Lorene is Director and Publisher at Durvile & UpRoute Books and author of the Introduction of The Little Book. Lorene has worked professionally in book and magazine publishing for over three decades with expertise in writing and editing, print and web design, and audiobook production. Her doctoral degree from the University of Calgary is in interactive media and she has been on faculty in departments of creative arts, communications, and computer science at the University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, Montana Tech, and McMaster University. The print, audio, and e-book series that she currently oversees are Durvile's True Cases series and Reflections series, UpRoute's Spirit of Nature Indigenous series, and the Every River Lit series.

The book was translated by Dr. Magda Stroinska, Dept. of Linguistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and by musician and music teacher Volodymyr Shyba of Odessa and Chernihiv, Ukraine.


Excerpt: The Little Book: Story Reader for a Free Ukraine (by (author) Mykola Matwijczuk; introduction by Lorene Shyba; translated by Magda Stroinska & Volodymyr Shyba; illustrated by O. Kurelac)

INTRODUCTION My babka, (grandma), used to read to me from The First Little Book when I was a child. If you look hard at the front cover of the 1940 version, my Aunt Marian (Marushka) Powley’s name is on the front cover. She must have brought it home from school. I have cherished my copy of this book for a long time and now, with a new edition, it has a new mission, to teach you some lessons in Ukrainian! I remember being able to understand the Ukrainian language lessons my babka and my mom taught me from this book but I thought I had forgotten everything. The lessons did not completely disappear though! As I have worked on reviving and translating The Little Book I started remembering: Mama, Tato, баба Baba, Дуже дякую duzhe dyakuyu, and many of the other words and phrases. I challenge you to have some fun. Learn the sounds from the alphabet symbols on page 9. Practise sounding them out and then when you read the translations we have provided, you can start matching up the meaning with the words, if just in a general way at first. You can become more precise over time when you find the patterns of the way the sentences are put together. If you are a friend of technology, you can invite Google Translate to the party too. :) The Ukrainian Diaspora Are you familiar with the word diaspora? It means people who have settled far from their ancestral homelands and who still feel a connection — like I do with Ukraine. I have visited my relatives there three times. The first time, a long time ago now, was when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, under Moscow’s control. My family resented this, as they were not free to sell their own farm crops or worship freely in their church. They have many stories about oppression under the Bolshevik Russian rule. The next two times I was there, Ukraine was its own free nation. It is better that way! The Little Book that you are holding in your hands was first printed in 1932 at the Basilian Fathers Monastery in Zhovkva, near Lviv, Ukraine. The version we used for this translation is the 1940’s “Corrected Version,” printed in Winnipeg, Manitoba by A. Homik. Although most children who were reading the back in the day were born in Canada, they were connected with Ukraine. The book must have inspired them to respect the language and culture of the homeland. The Little Book even says, on page 42, “We must remember about family and about the old country!” You may wonder why the Ukrainian version of that sentence is not in the book. It is because we didn’t have room for every paragraph of original text — the English translations took up space too. That’s where technology comes in handy because you will see there is a QR code in some of the margins that enables you to use your phone or computer to go to the website for extra material. There you will find links to get pronunciation tips and useful phrases. The Spirit of Language My publishing partner Raymond and I have created a series of Indigenous language books over the past few years for Anishinaabe, Dene, Métis Michif, and Blackfoot Peoples. Is our belief, and that of many cultural scholars, that language represents the mind and spirit of a people. Although the Ukrainian language is not under the same threat of extinction as many of the Indigenous languages, we still feel that it makes sense to express and protect the gift of the language. Even if you are not Ukrainian, if you love freedom you may wish to say, Ми всі українці. My vsi ukrayintsi. We are all Ukrainian! Another wonderful phrase is Slava Ukraini, Glory be to Ukraine. We tried to find out about the original author of The Little Book, Mykola Matwijszuk, and the illustrator O. Kureles, but the authors and artists of this book are long departed from this world, I feel sure that they would be proud of The Little Book, especially knowing that our proceeds for this edition are going to a great charity to help the people of Ukraine. I wish to especially thank Dr. Magda Stroinska and Volodymyr Shyba who have translated these wonderful lessons, stories and poetry. Duzhe dyakuyu. Do you remember seeing that phrase from earlier in my introduction? Something my babka taught me to say. Duzhe dyakuyu means “thank you very much.” — Lorene Shyba PhD, 2022

Editorial Reviews

“Prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go. Life will conquer death, and light will win over darkness.”
—Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

"We [First Nations People] still suffer from the aftereffects and shockwaves that oppression has created — the havoc and misery in our hearts and souls. It was a time of our spiritual and cultural destruction where we doubted who and what we were as a People. I can understand how the Ukrainian People will never want to be under the yoke of Russia ever again, no one wants to be in that dark cave again where so much suffering and terrible memories exist and live.
We all want to be free to determine how we will live and how we will be as a is us who will determine us.
My time working with Lorene has taught me the importance of voice and reclaiming it and telling our future generations our stories and experiences. It has also taught me to listen and to help where I can in fighting for equality and against injustice, no matter where it happens... Today, I will say we are all Ukrainians and stand in spirit with Ukraine!! "

—Raymond Yakeleya, co-editor of We Remember the Coming of the White Man

Other titles by Lorene Shyba

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Tough Crimes

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