Answers to Children’s Author Trivia Volume 45: Books about Cats

Heather and her crew know their authors who have written about cats. 🙂

1. Our first author’s book about cats is touted as “the oldest American picture book still in print.” It is one of the few picture books to win the Newbery Honor award, which it did in 1929. Another clue:  the author had to add an accent to her name because so many people mispronounced it. Do you recognize the author or her book?

It is Wanda Gág’s wonderful little picture book Millions of Cats that is supposed to be the “the oldest American picture book still in print.”

Wanda Gág life story is a fascinating one. She was both an artist and a storyteller. Her father was a photographer and painter who died when she was only 14. As the oldest of seven children, she had to grow up quickly and become the chief breadwinner. Somehow she managed to support her siblings and continue her schooling at the same time, studying to become an artist.

Eventually she moved to New York where she showed her art. Her work caught the attention of a children’s book editor and Millions of Cats was born. It was thought to be innovative at the time because the story was laid out in a two-page spread format and because she used hand lettering. Later she went back to her German roots and translated and illustrated folktales.

Why did she add the accent? Her name sounds like “gog” rather than gag. (Unfortunately I couldn’t get Amazon’s widget to produce it).

2. Our second author based her books about cats on actual cats she knew. Her first book, which she both wrote and illustrated, was about a cat who wore a red scarf. It was published in 1944.

Esther Averill was also an artist first (is this a trend?) She started out drawing cartoons, which were published in her local newspaper. Like Gág, she also ended up moving to New York. After a variety of jobs, such as starting her own publishing company, and working at a library, she wrote and illustrated her first book about cats, Jenny and the Cat Club.

Her cat character, Jenny Linsky, was modeled after her own cat (although I doubt her real cat wore a red scarf!) Her books were popular, leading to an entire series of wonderful cat books.

3. Our third author’s book about a cat also won a Newbery (in 1950). Her tale was inspired by a trip to Vermont. Rather than wearing red, this author’s cat was blue.

Catherine Coblentz wrote her book, The Blue Cat of Castle Town, after she visited Castleton, Vermont. The blue cat that inspired the tale is featured in an embroidered carpet that is now in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The blue cat is in the middle of the bottom row.

Charlotte’s Library has a recent review.


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