So Christmas is always a time for matching books to people. Not always easy when personal libraries in my immediate circle run into the thousands of volumes. However there is a private little warm spot in my heart for buying children's books, especially books I enjoyed as a child. This is one such. And, even though I didn't buy a copy this year my musings about it did spark some interesting discussion.
Millions of Cats won the Newbery Award in 1929 and is one of very few picture books to have done so. In fact, the controversy about awarding the literature prize to a picture book at least indirectly brought about the introduction of the Caldecott Medal in 1938. Millions of Cats has the distinction of being the oldest American picture book still in print.
The story itself is rather grim but the repetitive rhyming text is irresistible. I remember myself giggling when it was read to me and the same reaction from my children: "Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!"
It was that line I repeated at work in front of some more junior colleagues eliciting both smiles of remembrance and smiles of hooked confusion from those without an American childhood who had never heard that lilting cadence.
I recommend this book not for the story, nor for Ms. Gag's art (which is also somewhat busy and grim) but for the smiles and giggles the rhythmic jingle of the text is sure to bring forth.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)