Review of "Millions of Cats"

Millions of Cats Review by Catherine Baty

Gág, Wanda. Millions of Cats. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013. Print.

An old woman and an old man live in a lovely home covered in flowers. Their life is great, except that they are very lonely. The old woman requests a cat. The old man goes out in search of a cat, but simply cannot choose between all of the lovely cats available, so he brings them all! But, “millions and billions and trillions of cats” is of course, too many. The old couple cannot choose which cat to keep, so they ask the cats to decide which one of them is the prettiest. This sets the cats to quarreling, and soon all but one of them is gone. The one left did not think of itself as pretty, and so the other cats did not harm it. The old man and woman take the kitten into their home and care for it until it becomes the most beautiful cat of all.

The characters in this book are charming and offer a perspective that any child can understand. The plot is easy to follow. Young readers will be interested in the journey that the old man takes from beginning to end. Interesting questions can be brought up throughout a read-aloud to engage children further with the story. The setting should be familiar to children, as it is a similar setting to most stories that begin with “Once upon a time…” I think that a good conversation can come out of asking children about the themes in this book. It can be discussed how vanity can lead to dangerous outcomes, or how beauty can be created through nurturant care. The lyrical writing style lends well to a storytelling version of this book and the illustrations though nice, are not necessary. They have shown age where the writing has not. It would be a good activity to draw the kids into the story to have them make their own illustrations for the story and create a classroom book.

Newbery Honor 1929

“Millions of Cats raises questions about the nature and judgment of beauty and its relationship to happiness…. Although in the book, Wanda Gag never explicitly uses the word, “beauty,” she still manages to explore aesthetic issues through a close look at what makes cats “pretty.”” – Contributor, Teaching Children Philosophy on March 1st 2016

Talk to the children about the responsibilities of owning a pet. Ask questions, like:

  • What do you have to do to take care of an animal? 
  • What would it be like to have “Millions of Cats”?
  • How many cats could you take care of at once?

Imagination Play, talk about what makes the perfect pet. Have the children make up their own perfect pet, then draw it. Make a classroom zoo and have the children explain their perfect pets to each other.

Gather with other classic literature, such as:
  • Potter, Beatrix, and Charles Santore. The Classic Tale of Peter Rabbit. ISBN 9781604337693
  • Steig, William. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. ISBN 9780141374680
  • Mitchell, Stephen, Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher, and H C. Andersen. The Ugly Duckling. ISBN 9780763621599

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