Author/Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
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!"
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!
Lesson plans for author study: Wanda Gag here.
"Millions of Cats" lesson plans here.