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Fabulous Felines: The Art of Wanda Gag

Millions awanda with catnd billions and trillions of cats today!

We had a very feline-filled class today, as we learned all about American artist, Wanda Gag. Gag is probably best known for writing and illustrating the children’s book Millions of Cats, which not only won the Newbery Honor Award, but is the oldest American picture book still in print!

Today we looked at many examples of Gag’s illustrations and writing, including Millions of Cats, ABC Bunny and Nothing at All. Here are a few of my students’ favorite Gag pieces:

We learned about her childhood growing up in Minnesota, her love of the outdoors and her commitment to only write and illustrate books that had deep meaning for her. Then, with Millions of Cats as inspiration, each child created their own cat portrait using pastels!

How can you resist these furry masterpieces?

cat 8cat 7cat 5cat 4

cat 1

My personal favorite? The cat with the Menorah on his chest:

cat 3

Here are a few interesting facts about Wanda Gag:

  • Wanda spoke only German until going to school and her father was an artist in their town – he decorated church walls and painted beautiful pictures on the weekends in the attic. Wanda loved to watch he father create artwork!
  • When Wanda’s father died, she became the sole breadwinner of the household, but still managed to finish school and take care of her mother, and her 6 siblings
  • Wanda never gave up her love of art, and was ultimately accepted, with a full scholarship, to art school in St. Paul and, from there, the Art League in New York City.
  • Wanda’s drawings and illustrations are whimsical, beautiful and quintessentially her own – no one has ever matched her style or level of detail.

What you can do at home:

  • If you haven’t already, please do check out any and all Wanda Gag books you can find at the bookstore or library – look for Millions of Cats, ABC Bunny, Nothing at All or her version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales . They are magical!
  • There is a lot of lovely information on Wanda Gag on the website devoted to her home in Ulm, Minnesota. Take a peek at http://wandagaghouse.org/
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