Founded with the aim of publishing forgotten and classic books about nature and rural life, we’ve long been huge fans of Little Toller Books. From the multi-award-winning Diary of a Young Naturalist, to Marcus Sedgwick’s soulful Snow, Little Toller Books have a wonderful habit of provoking thought, and evoking the magic of the natural world.

As a result, we’re delighted to share news of the independent publisher’s fabulous new Pineapple Lane imprint — a list devoted to dual-language, mother-tongue books for children who’ve been displaced by conflict. Launching with a range of Ukrainian titles created by writers and artists whose lives have been affected by war, these books will be available to displaced families for free.

Read on to find out more about the books and this hope-filled endeavour, with thanks to Gracie Cooper, co-owner of Little Toller Books and publisher of Pineapple Lane.

Could you tell us about the Packed with Hope campaign?

The day after the war in Ukraine broke out my then 10 year-old-son Luca returned home from school with a short story about the war written on a napkin instead of doing his homework! It was really moving and we discussed what was going on. It was the first time I have ever had to talk to my children about conflict. It was really unnerving. So, that night I went to bed thinking I need to respond to him. I hardly slept a wink and in the morning I decided that my response would be Packed with Hope. 

It was a crazy time. I came up with a plan to pack 10,000 colour coded backpacks in four age groups with all sorts of essential and lovely things. It started with books because I am publisher and it’s what I know, and I managed to get 75,000 books donated all in the right age groups from the UK’s biggest and smallest publishers. I started a Just Giving campaign so we could buy things that weren’t donated and found a huge warehouse in Dorset to operate from. I roped in help from fellow small publisher Kevin, who runs Bluemoose books. 

I had never done anything in my life like this, but amazingly nothing went wrong. We had over 2 million pounds of things donated to us items such as water bottles, toothbrushes, sweet treats, exercise books, sunflower seeds, hats and scarfs, head torches, all these books and so much more, including my favourite of all — 10,000 cards written and illustrated by school children. 

These cards were so beautiful, we even included a blank card in case anyone wanted to write back. Amazingly, we have had cards back and I even had a brother and sister hand deliver me cards they had written to my shop. Essentially, I wanted the backpacks to be from one child to another. We even got school kids to pack pencil cases, and even the lorries were free.

It was overwhelming but incredible, and in early April over a single weekend 250 volunteers helped pack all the bags. A few days later, I travelled to Romania to help distribute the first bags at the Ukraine border, which had arrived in massive lorries. I worked with the most incredible charity there who handed out all the backpacks for us over several months. Packed with Hope was exhausting but it also completely changed my life and my work and I will forever be proud of what we achieved.

Huge congratulations for launching such a wonderful new imprint. What sparked the idea for creating Pineapple Lane? Was there a eureka moment?

Thank you so much, no eureka moment but necessary. After the Packed with Hope campaign I recognized that stopping wasn’t an option and that I needed to carry on, but in a way which I could manage, and something that I could work on for years to come. 

In our 10,000 Packed with Hope backpacks, we included a copy of a book called How War Changed Rondo by husband and wife Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv. Their book is now the seminal children’s book about the war in Ukraine. It serves as a tribute to peace, resistance and hope.

We had the book translated, and redesigned it to be a dual-language book. It was such a powerful book to include and made me realise that mother tongue books for children are essential to the cultural inclusion of children who have been displaced. We even asked the author to write to all the children receiving the backpacks so they knew that once they had the book they were safe. It was all so emotive and powerful. 

What’s the story behind the superb Pineapple Lane name?

Little Toller Books was born out of the place we lived when we first started our press. In May 2020, in the middle of lockdown, we moved home and now live on Pineapple Lane, so it was simple. I love the name — it’s whimsical and playful, and the lane itself is also very beautiful. It’s a small West Dorset country lane. 

Can you tell us about the Pineapple Lane launch books, and explain the process of creating them? Did you have specific writers and illustrators in mind?

Making the first eight Pineapple Lane books has been such a learning journey, and we now have a virtual Ukrainian keyboard! The first six books are all children's picture books for the younger reader, all written, illustrated and translated by Ukrainians. 

I have continued to work with Andriy and Romana who wrote Rondo and have six books of theirs lined up. It’s a complex process because the books have to work in two languages, so we have chosen simple stories that work really well, including an ABC and 123 book. 

Seeking out the authors has been relatively straightforward. I had already made so many connections during the Packed with Hope campaign. Everyone is so keen to help and be a part of this. It’s the translations and proofing that has been difficult. I even flew over a lovely Ukrainian friend called Inna who works in publishing and is still based in Ukraine to help with the final texts. The first books are now ready and I am thrilled with them all. There are more to do, and I have two Syrian titles to work on now.

For me, one of the really important things about the books we have chosen is that they are Ukrainian stories or Syrian stories, not generic, and will work in loads of languages. It’s important for children who’ve been displaced and faced so much trauma to feel connected back to their homeland to remember, and to learn to read in their mother tongue. 

It also allows UK children to find out a little more about Ukraine by reading our books. In turn, this will allow for some cross-pollination of cultures in the classroom. Over the coming years I hope to make books for children who’ve been displaced from other countries too, but for me it had to begin with Ukraine.

How do you plan to distribute the books to children and communities displaced by conflict?

In many ways. I am working with the British Library’s Living Knowledge network to get books into all libraries across all 4 nations, also with the National Literacy Trust, and with many grass roots charities and community organisations, like the brilliant charity School in a Bag. Through these partners, the books will be free, but we’re also selling the books on our website and in bookshops. 

This free distribution of books is being partly enabled by the US firm HP inc. 

After launching with Ukrainian books, what next for Pineapple Lane?

More books in more languages, and the commissioning of new tiles.

Give us an elevator pitch for some soon-to-be-published books from across your lists.

Elowen by the author William Henry Searle, A raw memoir about the grief of losing a child. Profoundly moving, beautifully written and ultimately hopeful, it’s also a love letter to the natural world, a really important book. Out this July!

Which books from the Little Toller Books backlist should everyone read

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.

Ghost Town by Jeff Young.

brother. do. you. love. me. by the amazing brothers Manni and Reuben Coe

Snow by the wonderful Marcus Sedgwick, who so sadly died last year. 

And finally, How War Changed Rondo, the book we included in our Packed with Hope back packs.

Who would you invite to your dream literary party?

Margaret Atwood, Deborah Levy, Andriy Kurkov and, S F Said. Oh, and am I allowed AA Milne? 

Tell us a secret about books…

Did you know the word “bookworm” originated from insects who live in and eat the binding of books!! I was told that the other day by a customer in the shop!

Stay up to date with Little Toller Books, Pineapple Lane and the Packed with Hope campaign:

Little Toller website:

Pineapple Lane website:

Twitter: @LittleToller

Facebook: Little Toller Books

Instagram: @littletollerdorset

You can find a selection of these dual-language, Ukranian & English, picture books below.