Friday, March 8, 2013

PPBF: Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw




Author/Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
Publisher: Viking
Date: 2008

Ages: 7-11

Themes: biography, authors, illustrators, dreams, determination.

First lines: In 1928, an artist named Wanda Gág created her first book for children. The lively tale was about an old man in search of one kitten. Except that he didn't just find one cat, he found-

Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.

Jacket flap: "I can't help it that I've got to draw and paint forever; I cannot stop; I cannot; CANNOT...I have a right to go on drawing...And we are all going through high school!"

en.wikipedia.org
These words from Wanda Gág's diary, written when she was a teenager, reveal the two most important parts of her life-her art and her family. And the two were very much entwined. Wanda's idyllic childhood was filled with German fairy tales, musical evenings, and hours spent in her father's painting studio. As soon as Wanda learned to draw, she couldn't stop and dreamed of becoming an artist.

But when her beloved father died, teenage Wanda put her family before her art, taking care of her ailing mother and six siblings. It wasn't until she knew that her family could support itself that she finally attained her dream-winning a scholarship to a famous art school in New York City and eventually creating one of the most beloved children's books of all time, Millions of Cats.

Why I like this book: What a story! If Wanda could develop her painting with all the roadblocks in her way, we should be able to realize our dreams. The story of her journey is beautifully written, and holds our attention to the very end. There we find snippets from her diary, and extra info about her life. And a gorgeous photo of Wanda in her art school days (with a cat, below)! I always wondered how to pronounce her name, and now I know. She said, "It should rhyme with jog, not bag please!"
The illustrations have an "old world" appeal. I was thrilled to discover that her ethnic heritage was Bohemian (Czech) like me!

Online Activities:  

Lesson plans for author study: Wanda Gag here.
"Millions of Cats" lesson plans here.

minnesotahistorycenter.org

Don't you just love the above photo???



22 comments:

  1. Oh, I love this. Another PB biography this morning. I never knew there was a book about her. Thanks for the review.

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  2. Another beautiful biography! Sounds like she was an amazing independent woman.

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    1. And very devoted to her family. Enough to forgo her dreams to support them. That is precious to me!

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  3. My kind of book!! I love this story about Wanda pursuing her artwork and studying -- unusual for young women at that time. I was doing the math and she was born about the time of my grandmother. Usually they went to teacher's colleges. So inspiring. Love the pictures of her. Going to the top of my list.

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    1. Yes, Pat, aren't those photos mesmerizing?

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  4. This looks lovely! As someone who also enjoys drawing I think this is a must read for me! I absolutely love the quote from Wanda Gag's diary.

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    1. It would be especially inspiring for illustrators. Hope you can find a copy!

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  5. Oh! Oh! Oh! Need to get to the library and look for this right away!

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    1. I thought you would like this one, Julie!!

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  6. The photograph is perfect, and the "loving to draw" thing I understand. It's like loving to write. Perhaps at times it is "Having to draw," or "Having to write," -- I think that is what separates the true writers and true artists from the "at times I like to do that" like me :)

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  7. Thanks so much for this great biography suggestion, Jarm. It looks quite inspiring.

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    1. It reminded me of my father, who was a watercolor artist. You are welcome, Joanna!

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  8. I just read this not to long ago as it's online for free at We Give Books. I really enjoyed it.

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  9. Sounds like a great listen to your heart - follow your dreams - live your responsibilities kind of a book. I always enjoy reading/hearing the stories behind the authors and illustrators of classic books.

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  10. What a great book. It's probably a little old for my son, but I can't wait to read it. The cover illustration is wonderful.

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    1. Yes, the illustrations are delightful...hope you enjoy the book, Stacy!

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  11. I've loved this book from the first day I saw it. Thank-you for picking this one. It IS a perfect picture book.

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I would love to have you comment...thanks!

Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel