What story would you like to hear? The one about the child who grew up speaking German, at her home in New Ulm in the late 1800s, only to become a beloved author of classic read-aloud children's books, all written in English? Or the one about the girl who adored her artist father, only to lose him when she was just fifteen, taking to heart his last words? 'What Papa was unable to accomplish, Wanda will have to finish?' and vowing to become an artist in her own right? Or the story of the daring teenager who bucked popular opinion which said girls didn't need to be well-educated and stayed in high school after her father's death and her mother's breakdown, even when it meant going hungry and freezing in a house without coal? Or the story of the big sister who sold hand-drawn postcards and Valentine's Day cards at the local drugstore in order to buy shoes and school supplies for her younger siblings, five girls and one boy, helping them all, eventually, to graduate from high school, too? Or the story of the young woman who tried the patience of her teachers at art school, working only when a 'drawing mood' overtook her? and then drawing day and night, barely stopping to breathe? Or the story about the struggling artist in New York City who, having taken a job with a small graphic design company, spent her spare time telling the owners' children stories, including one about 'millions and billions and trillions of cats?' Or perhaps you'd prefer to hear the story of how that struggling young artist met an editor of children's books in 1928, submitted a story called Millions of Cats complete with rich, black pen-and-ink illustrations that leapt across two-page spreads and revolutionized the picture book form and saw that book become an instant classic?
Take your pick. They're all wonderful stories, and they're all about Wanda Hazel Gag, a pioneering artist in the field of children's books. But perhaps the best story to tell is the one that still unfolds, here and there, across the country and in translation around the world of a child hearing for the first time the story of 'hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats' and seeing a bedraggled kitten grow sleek and well-fed in a warm, cozy, and loving home.
~Gwenyth Swain, St. Paul, MN
My big sister read Millions of Cats and Snippy and Snappy to me over 50 years ago. I became reacquainted with the author just recently when I read Gwenyth Swains' Minnesota Book Award winning biography, and visited the Gag house in New Ulm. Wanda Gag was truly an amazingly talented artist and author. I am proud that she is a Minnesotan and a product of the Minneapolis School of Art.
~Dale Blassingham, Minneapolis, MN
I would like to nominate Wanda Gag. She was the author of the children's book Million of Cats. She was born in New Ulm, Minnesota.
~Karen Nelson, Isanti, MN
Wanda Gag. Her quirky and unusual European folk tales combined with unique illustrations make Gag's children's books timeless. My two-year-old daughter today still loves Millions of Cats written in 1928. She is truly a jewel in Minnesota's literary history.
~Amy Pence-Brown, Boise, ID
Wanda Gag, best known for her Newbery Honor classics Millions of Cats and ABC Bunny. Born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the eldest daughter of Bohemian immigrants, she achieved international acclaim as a children's book author, artist, and illustrator. She was an inventive printmaker and an influential member of the vibrant New York art community during the 1920s and 1930s.
~MaryAnn Zins, New Ulm, MN