awards & distinctions

1968 ALA Notable Book selection - Wildcat under glass
• 1969 Horn Book Honor List selection - Wildcat under glass
• 1970 ALSC Mildred Batchelder (U.S.A.) for Wildcat under glass
• 1974 ALSC Mildred Batchelder (U.S.A.) for Petro's War
• 1980 ALSC Mildred Batchelder (U.S.A.) for The sound of the dragon's feet
• 1992 Children's Literature State Prize (GREECE)
• 2002 Acerbi prize (ITALY) for La fidanzata di Achille (Achilles' fiancée)
• 2003 IBBY GREECE best teenage book prize for Constantina and her spiders
• 2003 diavazo literary magazine (GREECE) best teenage book prize for Constantina and her spiders
• Nominated for the 2004 Hans Christian Andersen Award by IBBY GREECE
• Nominated (2004 / 2009 / 2015) for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature by the HELLENIC AUTHORS SOCIETY and IBBY GREECE
• 2005 Prix des Embouquineurs (FRANCE) for Le grand écart (Constantina and her spiders)
• 2007 Premio Andersen – Il mondo dell’infanzia (ITALY) for La tigre in ventrina (Wildcat under glass)
• 2008 shortlisted by diavazo literary magazine (GREECE) best children book prize for Granddad the liar
• 2009 Tina’s web (Constantina and her spiders) shortlisted among five finalists for Marsh Award (U.K.)
• 2010 Prix Littéraire des Jeunes Européens - Prix des Etudiants Francophones pour Grand-père menteur (FRANCE)
• 2010 Athens Academy Award for her entire work
• 2012 Honorary Doctorate of Cyprus University
• 2014 Honorary Doctorate of Salonika Aristotle University
• 2014 Readers prize of PUBLIC Bookstores chain for With a Faber number two pencil
  • • 2015 Decoration by the President of the Greek Republic with the Golden
  • Cross of the Order of Honour
  • • 2015 Honorary doctorate of Patras University Human & Social Sciences Dpt
  • • 2015 Commander of the order of Arts & Letters by the French Ministry of Culture
  • • 2019 Prix Chronos (SWITZERLAND) Il nonno buggiardo 


“Alki’s long walk”

A documentary by film director Margarita Manda


Alki Zei was born in Athens in 1923 and passed her early childhood in Samos, where her mother was from. On her father’s side she originated from Crete. When she went to school her family first moved at Maroussi and later in Athens. 

She studied philosophy at the University of Athens, drama at the Athens Conservatory and scenario writing at Moscow Cinema Institute.

She started writing very young. At high school she wrote some pieces for the puppet theatre. One of the characters she created became later one of the main heroes of the Athens Puppet Theatre "Barba Mytoussis". She continued writing by publishing a series of short stories in Neaniki Foni (Young Voice), a magazine for young people directed by a team of intellectuals of that time. She kept writing short stories and novelettes during the years of her stay in the Soviet Union that were occasionally published in literary magazines in Greece.

She married to the theatre play writer Giorgos Sevastikoglou (died in 1991) and had two children, Irini and Petros. Since the years of the German occupation in Greece during Second World War, she has fought actively for freedom, social justice and democracy, being part of the left wing movement. She has suffered a lot for her involvement to that cause. From 1954 to 1964 she lived as a political refugee in the Soviet Union. In 1964 she returned with her family in Greece, but in 1967 they had to leave again, this time to Paris, chased by the dictatorship. She returned after the reconstitution of the parliamentary republic in 1974 and lived ever since in Athens.

The clear cut way of her writing, the linguistic integrity, the critical attitude towards persons and situations, her humour and the penetrating view to facts, are the dominant characteristics of Alki Zei's works. Achille's fiancée, Wildcat under glass and Petros' war, are included in the classic best sellers of contemporary Greek literature.

Most of her books are aimed at children and adolescents and a few at adults. However, her unpretentious, straightforward and rational way of writing and her fascinating narrative ability make her books read with great pleasure by young and old. Many of her works are inspired by her personal experiences weaving their plot alongside historical events. The issues they deal with are everyday and universal.

Wildcat under glass, her first novel, has been a milestone for Greek children's literature. More than fifty years after its first publication, it is now considered a classic book of the international literature for children.

Alki Zei's entire work is translated in various languages around the world. She has also translated books for children from French, Italian and Russian, among which Gianni Rodari's and Vera Panova's works.

She passed away on February 27th 2020.