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Once upon a time, when millennials were kids, their influencers were literary heroes. Together with a team of illustrators from Projector Institute, we revisited our childhoods to rethink the books we all grew up on.
Dive in!
Pippi Longstocking became strong from not having parents around. The little mermaid was not a victim of unrequited love,
If we take a look at
For most millennials, books were the main source of knowledge about life. We decided to look at
The little prince fell into the trap of a codependent relationship.
the books we loved as children,
some stories aren’t what they appeared to be.
the controversial ideas behind childhood books,
in order to challenge their traditional interpretations and better understand ourselves.
but someone who had to pay for being a liar.
Alice's Adventures
Mary Poppins
Pippi Longstocking
Peter Pan
The Secret Garden
The Little Mermaid
The Giving Tree
The Little Prince
The Hobbit
Hit the Road to Find Yourself
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
by J. R. R. Tolkien
First published: 1937
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable hobbit, lives in a cozy hole on a hillside. At his own surprise, Bilbo takes on an offer to search for ancient treasures. When he returns almost empty-handed, he has no regrets. Bilbo acquired much more than gold: He realized how brave, clever, and generous he was.
Bilbo has a very clear moral compass. He understands what a noble hobbit he can be, and does everything to stay on the side of good. We can all only learn from him. This determination, courage, and faith in his moral principles I embodied in the illustration.
Illustration by
Nadiia Rudenko
I didn't like The Little Prince when I was a child. It has a cold tone and features cosmic loneliness. Now it attracts me.

We all want to have a special relationship like love and friendship, which is normal. But what’s not normal is dedicating yourself entirely to others without feeling something back.

In my illustration, the insensitive little prince froze in his flight after being bitten by the snake. His tamed ones live inside him, leaving no space for himself. If I met the little prince, I would hug him and say that love that requires such a sacrifice is not love.
The little prince spent most of his life on a small planet. One day, he finds a rose — a beautiful, but narcissistic creature that can’t survive without his constant care. When he decides to explore the world and leave the rose behind, things start going downhill. The further he travels from his beloved one, the more guilty he feels. The little prince chooses to die for the rose, because the guilt is unbearable.
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
First published: 1943
Destructive Love Isn’t Love
Illustration by
Olia Aristova
For Some, We Are Not Friends, We Are Resources
The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
First published: 1964
A tree was once willing to give anything up for a boy who always visited it. The boy would chop the tree to gather wood, but eventually there was nothing left, except a stump to sit on. The self-sacrifice of the tree didn’t keep the person it loved nearby, nor did it help him become independent.
If I could rewrite this story, I would make the tree analyze its behavior and the situation at hand. For example, why it continues to call a man a boy, and how it can help the boy self-realize with his own inner resources.

The most challenging part for me as an illustrator was determining the protagonist. My main character turned out to be the tree, but without any branches or fruits to bear. The tree began to decay, while creating an illusion that everything was fine and the boy would come back because he missed it.
Illustration by
Natalie Gurova
The Prince Is Not to Blame
The Little Mermaid
by Hans Christian Andersen
First published: 1837
The little mermaid saves a young prince during a shipwreck and falls in love with him. Perhaps he’d love her back — if he were to meet the real her. Unfortunately, the mermaid pretended to be a human, in an attempt to be more like her beloved one. You can’t blame the prince for choosing someone he knew better.
I read this tale as a child, and since then, my attitude towards the main character has changed. I used to think that a happy ending for the little mermaid could be a wedding with the prince. Now, I believe that after numerous trials and troubles, she got what she deserved: the real her.

My illustration is dedicated to the transformation that occurred to the little mermaid's personality. She accepted herself and rose above it all.
Illustration by
Anastasia Ivanova
When in Sorrow, Light Yourself up With a Goal
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
First published: 1911
No one ever cared for poor Mary. After the death of her parents, she was able to turn into a shadow and wander around her uncle’s beautiful mansion. However, she decides to take care of an abandoned garden instead. As the garden blossoms, so does Mary’s soul.
The beginning of the novel was very moving and promising, but I didn't like the ending at all. The main character is doing her best, but her uncle's strategy raises many questions. He leaves the kids and waits for someone else to solve their and his problems.

The trickiest part of my illustration was depicting the girl’s state of mind and character.
Illustration by
Nadiia Rudenko
Escaping Adulthood, You Escape Life
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
by J. M. Barrie
First published: 1906
One night Peter Pan decides to take off to Kensington Gardens. Over time, he gets used to a carefree life among fairies. It may seem like he's living in paradise, until you realize that his decisions mean never becoming an adult or meeting his own family.
As a child, I only saw the cartoon; now I understand that there is a huge contradiction between the movie and the book. The protagonist puzzles me a lot. If he is a boy who does not want to grow up, then why is he so rude and selfish? Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism, since people like him aren’t accepted by others.

The most challenging aspect for me was featuring Peter’s character and the cold atmosphere surrounding him.
Illustration by
Polina Udod
Great Strength May Come from Despair
The book has a deep meaning: By following unreasonable social rules, adults lose themselves and become indifferent to their surroundings.

At the end of the book, Pippy and her friends eat peas and pretend that it’ll cure them from growing up. It’s the perfect ending because it allows us to draw our own conclusions. For some, children will inevitably grow up and turn into callous adults. And someone will believe that they can remain kind children in their hearts.
9-year-old Pippi lives alone. Her father left her a chest of gold and sailed away and her mother was gone long ago. Despite being alone, the girl is optimistic and helpful. She used her strength and gold to cheer others up and helped them even though they were not kind to her before. Kindness and placability are something that fuels her and makes her strong.
Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren
First published: 1945
Illustration by
Nika Kurilenko
Properly Raising Сhildren Requires Magic Skills
Mary Poppins (a 9-book series)
by P. L. Travers
First published: 1934—1988
Being a nanny of four was not difficult for Mary Poppins. She managed to keep them neat and tidy, teach them manners, and broaden their horizons daily. The question is: Would Mary Poppins be able to complete all her tasks without magic?
My mother read me the series when I was 5 or 6. As a kid, I was fascinated by magic, and I didn’t pay much attention to characters. Although Mary Poppins seemed too strict and this impression remained the same, I now resent the toxic relationship between minor characters.

I would suggest Mary not put pressure on children, but try to understand them. And as for parents, it would be great if they could be more receptive and responsible instead of waiting for a miracle.
Illustration by
Tetiana Yefremova
Sometimes All We Need Is a Good Nap
I discovered the novel when I read it to my child, and it seemed to be more interesting to me than to my kid. The author left the finale open: Alice woke up and did not dream till the end. We can only guess what happens next. I would advise not getting too carried away with fantasies, and balancing external and internal worlds.
Our desire to not miss out on a single event sometimes deprives us of sleep. If Alice avoided daydreaming, she would have never met the rabbit or fallen into the magic hole. Lewis Carroll teaches us that dreams are also a source of knowledge, impressions, and useful connections.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
First published: 1865
Illustration by
Pavlo Bestuzhev
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Although events from our favorite children's books were all fiction, we can still make connections to our reality.
to the literary heroes that taught us remarkable life lessons
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