Wanda Hazel Gág, from New Ulm, Minnesota, was the oldest of seven children. Her father was a fine painter and woodcarver with an Old World style, and both her parents died young. Despite the hardships, Gág was an enthusiastic and active student at the Minneapolis School of Art from 1914 to 1917, keeping the family together while studying.
A scholarship to the Art Students League brought her to New York. Creating fashion illustration, then her own prints and paintings, she was consistently a professional artist, with many famous friends. Almost by chance, a publisher asked her about doing children’s books—and conveniently, Gág had Millions of Cats ready to look at. The book became an instant classic, winning the Newberry Honor Award. She went on to write and draw many more children’s favorites, all still highly regarded.
She sustained a modernist, expressive, folk-art-derived style; she tackled the Brothers Grimm folk tales, even translating them from German. Her lively diaries from her college years, Growing Pains, are just as enjoyable as her works for younger readers.