Back in April, guests lucky enough to attend the Cape Ann Reads program at the Rockport Public Library enjoyed a lecture given by Anita Silvey. She spoke about the development of the American picture book from her years of experience in children’s picture book publishing, editing and most recently as an author. If you went to the afternoon lecture, you would have heard about the staggering success of the Newbury honor awarded Millions of Cats, written and illustrated by Wanda Gag in 1928. (The first Caldecott wasn’t awarded until 1938.) I sold lithographs and wood engravings by Wanda Gag and worked with a few of her artist friends; she died young, aged 53. Gag’s artistic career was going well prior to this book. She was one of the most praised printmakers of the 1920s and 30s and had a solo exhibition at Weyhe Gallery in 1926. (A lot of her prints have cats in them, too.)
Gag’s brother created the wrap around hand-lettering for Millions of Cats, including the memorably repeated refrain: “Cats here, cats there, Cats and kittens everywhere, Hundreds of cats, Thousands of cats, Millions and billions and trillions of cats.” The art and double page spreads revolutionized picture books. It had immediate and record sales. Silvey related that this book has the distinction of being the longest American picture book continuously in print, and that it was helped along by an editor. (Gag had abandoned a prior version in 1923.)
What’s coming next for Cape Ann Reads?
Don’t miss this Saturday’s June 4 round-trip double Story Walk for the whole family from 10am-2pm at the Manchester public Library and Manchester Historical Museum. Picture book lovers of all ages are invited to walk and read, and act the route together! The featured books are: Stella, the Star of the Sea by Mary Louise Gay and Storm Whale by Benji Davies.
Cape Ann Reads events are listed on the awesome Good Morning Gloucester arts calendar. For all the latest information and details, check the Cape Ann Reads website. Additional programs will be added to the calendar. Cape Ann Reads is a collaboration among the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library, Manchester Public Library, Rockport Public Library and TOHP Burnham Library in Essex and regional partners. Check them out!