Millions of Cats
By Wanda Gag
One of the reasons I started The Snuggery and the Way Back Wednesday portion of it was the belief that there ARE “essential classics” in the realm of the picture book world that should be part of a canon of literature for kids. And, more than that, these “essentials” had, for a variety of reasons, fallen off the radar for parents, grandparents and anyone interested in introducing great picture books to children.
So, as the year winds down and the weather grows colder and we move many of our activities indoors, it’s a perfect time to highlight the “essentials” with your young readers.
In case you’ve forgotten THIS title, Way Back Wednesday today features the oldest American picture book in print, “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gag.
One of the very few picture books to win a Newbery Honor book designation, it was given in 1929. Wanda also pioneered the double page spread as Anita Silvey, prominent reviewer points out in her book, “100 Best Books for Children,” “She used both pages to move the story forward, putting them together with art that sweeps the entire page spread…..”
And its popularity stemmed from the hand lettered text that Wanda’s brother contributed to the book, its black and white folk art style, and, of course the repetitive phrase that has stayed alive and been repeated by young readers since its printing:
“ Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.”
A sweet, but lonely peasant couple living in the country are looking for a cat to keep and love. So, off the husband goes in search of one. But trouble ensues when, after finding a cat, he is tempted by additional ones that make final decision making quite a task. Instead of just one, he opts for a coterie of cats, a cacophony of cats and a conglomeration of cats that drain ponds as they each take one sip, de-blade a hillside of grass as each takes a munch on the trip home and, ultimately get into the biggest “cat fight” in history!!
Prompted by a final cat selection question from the couple somewhat akin to the queen in “Snow White” asking the mirror, “Who’s the fairest of us all?”, a cat calamity begins with a row of epic proportions among all but one of the cats.
Can you guess who is picked as the prettiest?
Read and remember right along with your young reader, this cat tail er tale that is still essential some 85 years after its printing!! It’s a “cat astrophically” essential picture book classic.
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