Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Wanda Gág

She was born on March 11, 1893, in the town of New Ulm, Minnesota. As a child, she learned German first, then devoured English when she went to school. 

Her other love was art. She was the apple of her father’s eye and learned from him to understand paint and color and line.

In 1908 just before her father died, he told her, “What Papa couldn’t do, Wanda must finish.” He meant that she needed to be the artist he’d dreamed of becoming, a dream cut short by tuberculosis.

He was thinking, Wanda said later, “of the pictures he had not finished—had not even begun.”

Wanda Gág “finished” her father’s pictures and then created wonderful images and stories of her own. As we celebrate what would have been her 119th birthday—and the recent World Read-Aloud Day—it’s time to take a moment to appreciate Wanda and her unique contribution to the picture book form.

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

The refrain from her picture book classic, Millions of Cats, is just as much fun to read aloud today as it was back in 1928. And since the book is still in print, you can still find brand-new copies to give to your children, friends, grandchildren, or your local children’s librarian. 

If you haven’t read this book aloud in a while, you owe it to yourself and the children around you to crack open a copy again. You’ll meet the very old man and the very old woman who dream of owning just one “sweet little fluffy cat” and get millions and billions and trillions instead. Trust me on this one: you're in for a rare treat.

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