Gorbachev, Valeri 1944-

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Gorbachev, Valeri 1944-


Born June 10, 1944, in USSR (now Ukraine); immigrated to United States, 1991; son of Gregory and Polina Gorbachev; married, October, 1970; wife's name Victoria (a librarian); children: Konstantin, Shoshana Alexandra. Education: Attended Academy of Art, Kiev, USSR (now Ukraine).


Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected].


Artist; author and illustrator of children's books. Exhibitions: Works included in exhibitions of children's book illustration in the former Soviet Union. Solo exhibitions in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Awards, Honors

Parent's Guide Children's Media Award, and Kansas State Reading Recommended List inclusion, both 1998, both for Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves; Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award nomination, 2003, for One Rainy Day; Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, 2005, for Big Little Elephant; California Young Reader Medal nomination, 2005, for The Giant Hug written by Sandra Horning; Garden State Book Award nomination, 2008, for Ms. Turtle the Babysitter.



The Three Little Pigs: Full-Color Sturdy Book, Dover (New York, NY), 1995.

Arnie the Brave, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Warren Longmire) The Flying Ship, Star Bright (New York, NY), 1997.

Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, Star Bright (New York, NY), 1998.

Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves, North-South (New York, NY), 1998.

Where Is the Apple Pie?, Philomel (New York, NY), 1999.

Nicky and the Fantastic Birthday Gift, North-South (New York, NY), 2000.

Peter's Picture, North-South (New York, NY), 2000.

Chicken Chickens, North-South (New York, NY), 2001.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, North-South (New York, NY), 2001.

Nicky and the Rainy Day, North-South (New York, NY), 2002.

One Rainy Day, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.

Chicken Chickens Go to School, North-South (New York, NY), 2003.

The Big Trip, Philomel (New York, NY), 2004.

Whose Hat Is It?, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Ms. Turtle the Babysitter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

That's What Friends Are For, Philomel (New York, NY), 2005.

Big Little Elephant, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Heron and Turtle, Philomel (New York, NY), 2006.

Red Red Red, Philomel (New York, NY), 2007.

Christopher Counting, Philomel (New York, NY), 2008.

Dragon Is Coming!, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.

Turtle's Penguin Day, Knopf (New York, NY), 2008.


Joy N. Hulme, What If? Just Wondering Poems, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1993.

Laurie A. Jacobs, So Much in Common, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1994.

Pamela J. Farris, Young Mouse and Elephant: An East African Folktale, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.

Miriam Kosman, Red, Blue, and Yellow Yarn: A Tale of Forgiveness, Hachai Publications (Brooklyn, NY), 1996.

Patricia Blanchard and Joanne Suhr, There Was a Mouse, Richard C. Owens (Katonah, NY), 1997.

Carol Roth, Little Bunny's Sleepless Night, North-South (New York, NY), 1999.

Judy Sierra, Silly and Sillier: Read Aloud Tales from around the World, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.

Carol Roth, Who Will Tuck Me in Tonight?, North-South (New York, NY), 2003.

Lesléa Newman, Where Is Bear?, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.

Sandra Horning, The Giant Hug, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

Michael J. Rosen, Three Feet Small, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.

Dee Lillegard, Go!: Poetry in Motion, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

David Martin, All for Pie, Pie for All, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Lisa Moser, Squirrel's World, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Lesléa Newman, Skunk's Spring Surprise, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2007.


When Someone Is Afraid, illustrated by Kostya Gorbachev, Star Bright Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Author and illustrator of several dozen books published in Russian. Contributor to children's magazines, including Highlights for Children, Highlights High Five, and Ladybug.


Since arriving in the United States at the end of the cold war, Valeri Gorbachev has established himself as a popular author and illustrator of children's books, including Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves and One Rainy Day. Gorbachev, who was born in the Ukraine, also creates artwork for titles by other writers, such as David Martin's All for Pie, Pie for All. The artist/author's success is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that he did not know any English when he came to the United States.

Gorbachev likes to draw "animals endowed with bold personalities," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. This penchant was an established part of his repertoire while in the Soviet Union, where he created a bestselling picture-book series around a lively pig named Hrusha. In the United States, Gorbachev's characters have included the "chicken chickens," which must bolster their courage to try new things, and Pig and Goat, a pair who cannot quite trust each other's versions of events. Reviewing the books featuring these characters, Booklist reviewer Ellen Mandel noted that Gorbachev "etches humor and delight into each droll illustration."

Similarities and differences among people is the theme of Laurie A. Jacobs' So Much in Common, one of the first books Gorbachev illustrated after immigrating to the United States. In Jacobs' story, Philomena Midge, a hippo, and Horace Abercrombie, a goat, are two friends who share different interests. The pair, however, easily acknowledge what they enjoy about each other: Philo-

mena enjoys Horace's sense of humor while Horace savors Philomena's cooking. Other friends tell the hippo and goat that they have nothing in common, but the duo only grow closer in a story that promotes acceptance and diversity. Gorbachev enhances the book's text with "cheerful pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings of the animal village," according to School Library Journal reviewer Janet M. Bair. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the illustrator's drawings "bring the characters playfully to life."

Young Mouse and Elephant: An East African Folktale, with a text by Pamela J. Farris, is another children's book that includes Gorbachev's drawings. In the humorous tale Young Mouse claims to be the strongest animal on the African plains. Young Mouse's grandfather bruises his ego when he disagrees and states that Elephant is the strongest. Young Mouse goes out looking to challenge Elephant, proclaiming that he will "break Elephant apart and stomp her to bits." According to School Library Journal reviewer Jennifer Fleming, Gorbachev perfectly pairs his drawings to the folktale by making them "full of mischief and fun" as well as a "delightful match for this clever retelling." In Booklist Annie Ayres wrote that the "sprightly ink-and-watercolor illustrations should amuse the small and swaggering."

The Giant Hug, featuring a text by Sandra Horning, concerns Owen, a young piglet who wants to send a long-distance greeting to his grandmother on her birthday. "Gorbachev's ink-and-watercolor artwork charms," observed a Publishers Weekly critic of the title. In Go!: Poetry in Motion, a collection by Dee Lillegard, the illustrator's "double-page scenes teem with a bright mix of busy, anthropomorphized animals," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In Martin's All in Pie, Pie for All a read-aloud about a family's favorite treat, Gorbachev's "drawings create a series of charming domestic scenes," according to Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan. A skunk emerges from her winter sleep and begins searching for her friends in Skunk's Spring Surprise, a picture book by Lesléa Newman in which Gorbachev's "cheery animals … will be irresistible to the preschool set," in the opinion of a Kirkus Reviews critic.

Gorbachev is equally at home illustrating established folktales from other nations. His version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was described by Sheilah Kosco in School Library Journal as "a perfect version for preschoolers," and a contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that the "snug interiors" "conjure a cozy and comforting world." Another Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that Gorbachev's illustrations for Judy Sierra's Silly and Sillier: Read-Aloud Tales from around the World "reflect the international settings and reinforce the playfulness of the tales."

Among Gorbachev's self-illustrated works, Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves is a picture book about a small bunny named Nicky who awakens one night terrified by

a nightmare he has had. In describing how Nicky relates his dream to his rabbit mother and four rabbit siblings, Gorbachev "wrings every last ounce of humor from the action" with his "particularly droll" pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The same commentator concluded that Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves has a "fresh, friendly sensibility" that will "keep little ones coming back for more."

In Chicken Chickens two baby chicks make their first trip to the playground, where they are terrified by the play equipment. With the help of a kindly beaver, the two overcome their fears and learn to master the slide. Judith Constantinides, writing in School Library Journal, commended Gorbachev for endowing his animal characters with human expressions, "all in a simple and lively style." A Publishers Weekly critic felt that the book "takes a familiar preschool scenario and spins it out with gusto." In a follow-up, Chicken Chickens Go to School, the timid chicks venture into the classroom for the first time. Their efforts to bond with the other students fall flat, however, until the chicks need help crossing a stream during a class hike. "Subtle messages about overcoming fear and finding friendship add depth," observed Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper.

Friendship is also the theme of One Rainy Day, a counting book featuring Pig and Goat, who made their first appearance in Where Is the Apple Pie? After rain-soaked Pig arrives at Goat's house carrying a bouquet of flowers, Goat helps his companion dry off and is treated to a tall tale involving a mouse, porcupines, buffaloes, leopards, and elephants. Booklist reviewer Helen Rosenburg praised the book's "bold pictures, humorous text, and opportunities for audience participation," and a contributor for Kirkus Reviews recommended the title for sharing, commenting that "the sweet, simple text and fold-out spread showing all the counted animals will help keep readers' and listeners' attention." In The Big Trip, Pig's announcement of his travel plans is greeted with skepticism by Goat, who suggests that every mode of transportation is fraught with danger. "An upbeat ending and the charming pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations relieve some of the negative tension" of Gorbachev's narrative, Teri Markson wrote in School Library Journal. Goat expresses concern for an apparently despondent Pig in That's What Friends Are For, described as "a pleasing story showing the lengths one friend will go to ensure the comfort of another" by a Kirkus Reviews critic.

Gorbachev has published a number of books that feature a turtle as the main character. In Ms. Turtle the Babysitter three energetic frogs test the patience of their kindly guardian. According to School Library Journal reviewer Corrina Austin, "the pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoons seamlessly complement the text." A pair of mismatched pals find common ground in three stories collected as Heron and Turtle, a work described as "sweet but not cloying, tender but not sentimental" by Booklist critic Linda Perkins. In Red Red Red Turtle's neighbors become curious when they spot him rushing around town in search of something red, and the other animals soon join Turtle on his quest. "Gorbachev's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations reflect the colorful mystery's genial mood" of this story, noted Kitty Flynn in a Horn Book review of Red Red Red.

Gorbachev once told SATA: "I arrived in the United States in 1991 with my wife, my two children, my suitcases, and dozens of characters I had created…. In my native Ukraine, I illustrated forty children's books, half of which I also wrote. They have been translated into Finnish, German, and Spanish, and I have participated in many exhibitions of children's books in the former Soviet Union and abroad. I have also had solo exhibitions in Moscow and St. Petersburg. For many years government officials denied me the right to leave the country. The demise of communism at last cleared the way for me and my family to move to the United States.

"When I illustrate a book, the drawings and the text become one, and it is not really possible for me to separate the drawings from the text. I love to draw for children and to create books when I am both author and illustrator. I think that my work in children's magazines

helped me to connect with the reading audience. Now I am enjoying my work with American magazines. I also love American children's books because they have strong visual appeal, and the connection between author and illustrator is close. Often the author and artist are the same person. That is how I understand children's literature. I hope that American children will love my books as much as Russian children do. My characters will take on nuances of American culture, but the basic qualities of the characters show the similarities among people all over the world."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, May 1, 1996, Annie Ayres, review of Young Mouse and Elephant: An East African Folktale, p. 1509; July, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, p. 2013; September 1, 2001, John Peters, review of Chicken Chickens, p. 114; May 15, 2002, Helen Rosenburg, review of One Rainy Day, p. 1600; August, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Chicken Chickens Go to School, p. 1992; May 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Big Trip, p. 1563; January 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Giant Hug, p. 869; May 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of That's What Friends Are For, p. 1664; October 1, 2005, John Peters, review of Big Little Elephant, p. 62; June 1, 2006, Linda Perkins, review of Heron and Turtle, p. 82; September 1, 2006, review of All for Pie, Pie for All, p. 68; November 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Go!: Poetry in Motion, p. 57; February 15, 2007, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Skunk's Spring Surprise, p. 84.

Childhood Education, winter, 2005, Patricia Crawford, review of That's What Friends Are For, p. 111.

Horn Book, March-April, 2007, Kitty Flynn, review of Red Red Red, p. 183.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of One Rainy Day, p. 491; March 1, 2004, review of The Big Trip, p. 222; June 1, 2004, review of Whose Hat Is It?, p. 536; June 1, 2005, review of That's What Friends Are For, p. 636; October 15, 2006, review of Go!, p. 1073; December 1, 2006, review of Skunk's Spring Surprise, p. 1224; January 15, 2007, review of Red Red Red, p. 73.

Publishers Weekly, June 21, 1993, p. 104; June 13, 1994, review of So Much in Common, p. 63; April 13, 1998, review of Nicky and the Big, Bad Wolves, p. 74; June 1, 1999, Ellen Mandel, review of Little Bunny's Sleepless Night, p. 1844; February 15, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Where Is the Apple Pie?, p. 1117; April 15, 2000, Marta Segal, review of Peter's Picture, p. 1550; May 7, 2001, review of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, p. 245; June 25, 2001, review of Chicken Chickens, p. 71; September 30, 2002, review of Silly and Sillier: Read-Aloud Tales from around the World, p. 71; June 9, 2003, review of Chicken Chickens Go to School, p. 50; January 17, 2005, review of The Giant Hug, p. 55; September 11, 2006, review of All for Pie, Pie for All, p. 53.

School Library Journal, August, 1993, p. 158; December, 1994, Janet M. Bair, review of So Much in Common, p. 76.; April, 1996, Jennifer Fleming, review of Young Mouse and Elephant, p. 124; June, 2000, Sue Sherif, review of Peter's Picture, p. 112; June 2001, Sheilah Kosco, review of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, p. 116; August, 2002, Doris Losey, review of One Rainy Day, p. 156; September, 2001, Judith Constantinides, review of Chicken Chickens, p. 189; November, 2002, Carol L. MacKay, review of Silly and Sillier, p. 150; September, 2003, Julie Roach, review of Chicken Chickens Go to School, p. 179; March, 2004, Teri Markson, review of The Big Trip, p. 169; July, 2004, Mary Elam, review of Whose Hat Is It?, p. 76; May, 2005, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of Three Feet Small, p. 95; July, 2005, Judith Constantinides, review of That's What Friends Are For, p. 73; August, 2005, Corrina Austin, review of Ms. Turtle the Babysitter, p. 95; September, 2005, Linda Staskus, review of Big Little Elephant, p. 170; January, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of When Someone Is Afraid, p. 97; September, 2006, Kathleen Whalin, review of All for Pie, Pie for All, p. 180; December, 2006, Susan Weitz, review of Go!, p. 125; March, 2007, Martha Simpson, review of Red Red Red, p. 162.


Carus Publishing Web site,http://www.cricketmag.com/ (November 10, 2007), "Meet the Illustrator: Valeri Gorbachev."