Title: Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw
Author and Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 6.0
Concepts: scarcity, poverty, education, human resources
Review: Wanda Hazel Gág, the oldest of seven children in a happy home, delighted in watching her talented father paint in his studio and hearing her worldly mother tell German fairy tales at bedtime. Wanda had already developed a passion and talent for drawing at a young age, and she dreamed of going to art school. Unfortunately her Papa contracted tuberculosis, and Wanda had no choice but to drop out of high school for a while so she could help her Mama with childcare and housework. The family fell into poverty when Papa died and Mama struggled with exhaustion, leaving Wanda, at the age of fifteen, as the primary breadwinner.
Just as Wanda lived to draw, she also drew to live, and earnings from art competitions, craft sales, and publications helped to supplement the family's meager welfare payments. Despite the difficult times, Wanda pushed herself to finish high school. Her dream to study art came true with a full scholarship at a Minnesota art school, an opportunity she could pursue now that two of her siblings were old enough to support the family.
Wanda prospered as an artist and earned critical acclaim for her watercolors, drawings, and lithographs. She also gained notice from a children’s book editor, who asked her in 1928 to write a story. The resulting project, Millions of Cats, won a Newbery Honor for its unique text and illustrations, and it set a new standard for children’s picture books. Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw does a superb job in combining lessons of artistic creativity with economic hardship; this book is sure to inform and entertain a wide readership.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children