"Art to me means life" - Wanda Gág
March 17, 2015 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Wanda Gág (1893–1946), best known for her book Millions of Cats - one of the only picture books to ever win a Newbery Honor award and the book that pioneered the two-page spread - wrote and illustrated her stories, the stories of others, and her own diary with what she called a "full-flavored, conversational style, and with a sly peasant humor."

She was also a leftist and a feminist. She wrote several essays on these subjects, including "A Hotbed of Feminists" published in The Nation in 1927 (first few pages available through Google Books search).

She was born in New Ulm, Minnesota; her house is open for tours. Minnesota was always part of her work [PDF], even after she moved to New York City where she attended the Art Students League of New York on a full scholarship.

Her papers are held at the University of Minnesota Libraries Children's Literature Research Collections and at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.
posted by sockermom (14 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I love her work and am so glad to see that The Funny Thing-- my personal favorite-- is available. Digitally, even.
posted by BibiRose at 2:50 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

According to Wikipedia: "Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print."
posted by Melismata at 2:58 PM on March 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

> According to Wikipedia: "Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print."

And I've read it to my grandsons! Wonderful book, and an impressive author. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 3:11 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yay! Wanda Gag is wonderful.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:14 PM on March 17, 2015

Oh, thank you so much for this! I love her work.

I just took a peek at my library's catalog to see what else of hers I might want to look at, and I see there's a catalogue raisonné of her prints, as well as a collection of diaries and drawings.

I also see that another of my favorite children's authors, Eleanor Cameron, wrote a chapter about Wanda Gág in The green and burning tree; on the writing and enjoyment of children's books.

This is a delightful addition to my day - thank you!
posted by kristi at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved her books as a kid! Great illustrator and great stories. Somewhere I might still have a copy of Gone is Gone, an awesomely feminist story about how dudes do not understand how much housework women do (which sadly is still relevant today).
posted by Librarypt at 3:29 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

According to Wikipedia: "Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print

I still have it on the shelf waiting for the youngest g-kid. I often wonder what they first make of it in contrast to the colorful new books. After a reading or two they love the story.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:53 PM on March 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am in my forties and can still recite large sections of the book. It is amazingly good and I am glad it is still in print.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

My mom gave the book "Millions of Cats" to us for my kids. They were…nonplussed. But my mom is a fiercely loyal Minnesotan, though, and simply ignored them. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:17 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved this book when I was little. (Not least for the millions of cats).

Now that I know how interesting the author & artist was, I need to learn more about her.
posted by jb at 9:33 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wonderful! I remember this fondly from my childhood. Had no idea of the life of this fascinating author.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:41 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved Millions of Cats as a kid. One of my favorite books.

If ya'll don't mind maybe someone can answer a tip-of-my-tongue question that's been bothering me for years. There was another book which I thought was by Gag but which I now believe wasn't. We're talkin' late 50's early 60's (my childhood). Does anyone remember a book about a circus train which breaks down in the night, during a storm and allows the animals to free and roam the countryside. Somehow the animals blend in the night with other, native animals. I remember an illustration of a rabbit with a giraffe's head and neck.

This has, as I said been driving me crazy for donkey's years. Anyone?
posted by cleroy at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2015

Dahlov Ipcar is the first illustrator who comes to mind for that, but I haven't found one of hers that matches -- maybe her book Lost and Found? It has roaming animals blending into the backgrounds, but I don't know about the other elements.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:53 PM on March 18, 2015

Thank you LobsterMitten. Not the book but I love the illustrations!

The search goes on!
posted by cleroy at 7:35 PM on March 19, 2015

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