Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw

Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw

by Deborah Kogan Ray
     
 

Wanda Gág (pronounced 'Gog') is well known as the author and illustrator of Millions of Cats, one of the best-loved children's books ever published. But not many people know how interesting and inspiring her life was.

Following in the footsteps of her beloved artist father, Wanda led an idyllic childhood, drawing and listening to old-world fairy

Overview

Wanda Gág (pronounced 'Gog') is well known as the author and illustrator of Millions of Cats, one of the best-loved children's books ever published. But not many people know how interesting and inspiring her life was.

Following in the footsteps of her beloved artist father, Wanda led an idyllic childhood, drawing and listening to old-world fairy tales. But when her father died, it was teenage Wanda who worked hard to keep her seven younger siblings fed, clothed, and laughing. She never lost sight of her love of art, however, and her tremendous willpower won her a coveted scholarship to the Art Students League in New York City and then led to a gallery show of her artwork-where an editor of children's books got an idea for a book. The rest, as they say, is history!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Widely known for her picture book classic Millions of Cats, Gág (1893-1946) is the inspiring subject of Ray's well-conceived biography. Focusing on Gág's upbringing in a German-speaking community in Minnesota, Ray (To Go Singing Through the World) deftly interweaves her narrative with passages from Gág's childhood diaries, vividly conjuring the passionate artist and her hunger for drawing ("I can't help it that I've got to draw and paint forever; I cannot stop, I cannot, cannot, CANNOT," writes Gág). Illustrations loosely recall folk art in their use of frontal compositions and bold color as they depict the various settings-the old-world Bohemian atmosphere of Gág's early life and, later, the art world of New York City-with fine naturalistic and period detail. Readers will relate to the elements Ray highlights: Gág's love for fairy tales, the bustling activities of her grandparents' tiny village and the example of her artist father, whose dying words to his 15-year-old daughter drove her for the rest of her life-"What Papa couldn't do, Wanda will have to finish." An exemplary integration of primary research in a compelling, visually exciting book. Ages 6-8. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

This charming biography of the creator of Millions of Cats , "the first modern picture book," shows how Gág's family and childhood inspired her lifelong pursuit of art. Born in 1893 to German-speaking parents from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), she grew up in a small town in Minnesota with her five younger sisters and brother. Nourished on German fairy tales and her artist father's love of painting and drawing, Wanda was determined to honor his dying wish that she attend art school. "She refused to let go of her passion.... Or the responsibility of educating herself and her sisters and brother...." Each page of text is introduced with a quote from the subject's diaries and letters, and faces a white-framed illustration reflecting the Old World charm of her childhood, which comes to life with Ray's evocative paintings. Readers will want to discover or revisit the work of this classic author after reading this loving tribute.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Kirkus Reviews
Wanda Gag's millions and billions and trillions of fans will be as enthralled by her true life's story as they are by her made-up ones. Growing up in a large clan of Czech and German descent, she caught fire for drawing from her father, a commercial and fine artist. Forced to become the chief breadwinner as a teenager, she supported her family through hard times by teaching and by painting postcards and magazine illustrations-going to formal art training only after two of her younger sisters had finished school. A 1928 gallery show in New York brought her a contract for Millions of Cats, often adjudged the first modern picture book, and then a string of other award-winning original stories and translated folktales whose characters and imagery likewise drew on her cultural heritage and childhood memories. Ray intersperses this simply written profile with quotes from Gag's memoirs and other writings, and supplies hazy, warm-toned scenes that capture both the strongly European look of the artist's Midwestern community and her lively, determined, cute-as-a-button personality. (author's notes, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670062928
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
10/02/2008
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
10.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Deborah Kogan Ray has received high praise and starred reviews for her books about famous artists and writers, including To Go Singing Through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda and Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain. She lives in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

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