Millions of Cats

by Wanda Gag

Hardcover, 1952


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Call number

E Ga


Putnam Juvenile (1952), Edition: 8/25/52


How can an old man and his wife select one cat from a choice of millions and trillions?

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User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
One of only a few picture-books to have been chosen as a Newbery Honor title - Wanda Gág's own The ABC Bunny was another, in 1934 - Millions of Cats is the charming tale of a very old man and a very old woman who, lonely and childless, decide to get a cat. But when the very old man finds himself
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before a hill covered in cats - "Cats here, cats there, / Cats and kittens everywhere, / Hundreds of cats, / Thousands of cats, / Millions and billions and trillions of cats," he cannot decide which one to take home. Returning with a horde of felines in tow, the very old man is greeted with consternation by the very old woman, and a decision is reached: they will keep the prettiest. But which is the prettiest...?

This book seems to have evoked a strong negative reaction in a number of readers, who have decried the violent and disturbing nature of Gág's solution, but I confess that I saw little cause for concern here. Millions of Cats is so clearly written in a fairy-tale style - the nameless little old couple who long for a child (or child-substitute), the quest to find the child, the convenient disappearance of the rivals, as a result of their own flaws - that I think young readers will take it in stride, treating it as the fantasy it is so clearly meant to be. I myself was reminded, especially at the beginning, of one of my own childhood favorites, Gladys L. Adshead's What Miranda Knew, which also featured a lonely older couple living in a quaint little home. Of course, that story involved a group of angels descending with two little babies for the old couple to care for, rather than a winsome kitten, but the sense of surreal whimsy is very similar.

The narrative itself, with its sing-song refrain about the millions of cats, reads very well, and would make an excellent story-hour selection. The type, which looks hand-written, is charming, and the illustrations are simply adorable, with a folk motif style that really appealed to me. In short: I'm going to have to disagree with some of my friends, much though I respect their views. I think Millions of Cats is a picture-book winner - one that definitely deserves a place on the young reader's fairy-tale shelf!
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LibraryThing member ilovezeppe
Wonderful story about an older man who wants to find the right cat for his wife. Amazing illustrations.
LibraryThing member karawaller
This is a story about an old lady who decides she wants a cat. Her husband sets out to find the prettiest cat for his wife. In a field, he found a hundred, million, billion, trillion of cats. He couldn't pick just one cat because they were all so pretty. He brought back all the cats to their house
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and the old lady said they couldn't keep them all. The husband asked the cats who was the prettiest. All the cats started to fight and soon enough all the cats were gone, except one skinny cat who was hiding. The old lady and man asked the cat how he didn't get attacked and the cat told them because he never claimed he was the prettiest. The old lady took the cat in and took care of him.

I have never read this book until now and I think its a great book. Although the illustrations our just black and white, the story is great. Children can learn many lessons from this book.

In the classroom, we can discuss the difference from a hundred, million, billion, and trillion. After we talk about the numbers, the students would do a worksheet involving adding zeros to make these numbers listed above.
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LibraryThing member dchaves
The hidden lesson; Aristotle and 'everything in moderation'.
LibraryThing member Omrythea
Often credited as the first American picture book, this one is a winner!
LibraryThing member candicebairn
Kids today might not like this book becuase it is in black and white, they might find it boring.
LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Traditional tale in which an old woman sends her old husband out to find her a cat. Cute, simple, good read-aloud.
LibraryThing member Treeseed
This charming book was written in 1928 and has delighted people ever since. Captain Kangaroo first read it to me sometime in the early 1950s and I credit it with my lifelong love of cats, ( I don't have millions but I do have three!) Wanda Gag's truly unique illustrations capture the surprising
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situation that arises when a very old man and a very old woman realize they can't be happy because they are lonely. The very old woman wishes for a cat and her loving husband sets off to oblige her. Something of a CATastrophe ensues! The story delivers a sweet message and is sure to become a lifelong favorite for you as it has for me. Please don't miss it!
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LibraryThing member champlin
Picture Book. This is a great book, that has been contributed to children's literature in many ways. An old man goes out in search for a pet for his wife. He returns to her with a million cats who all claim to be the most beautiful cat. The illustrations are black and white and absolutely
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wonderful. This book can teach about woodcut in art and makes for a great read-aloud adventure.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
A favorite of my husband when he was young. Sweet illustrations, a story of cats and how they can get out of hand.
LibraryThing member curiousbutterpants
One of those quaint little books that begins with "Once upon a time," and not in any skewering kind of way, "Millions of Cats" may not be new (by any stretch of the imagination), but it bears this delightful charm about it.

A whimsical story about a man, his wife, and a lot of cats, it's really a
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quietly delightful story that's so obviously being told from the "Now listen, children, and watch for the moral" perspective of children's literature of old that your heart skips a beat in joy when you discover it's actually quite clever.
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LibraryThing member LDGardner
The little old woman tells her little old man that she is lonely and would like a pretty little cat. He sets out to find her one, and instead comes across a hill with 'hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.' He tries to choose just one, but he keeps seeing
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another and another that is just as beautiful in a different way. Pretty soon, he has chosen all of them, and they follow him back home to the old woman, eating all the grass and drinking all the water along their way. The old woman, of course, is shocked, and tells her husband that they cannot support so many cats! To be fair, the couple decide to tell the cats to decide among themselves who is the prettiest, and that cat shall stay. The cats begin to quarrel so much that the old couple hides inside. When they come out, they find one scraggly little kitten whom nobody noticed because she found herself homely and did not involve herself in the quarrel. The old man and woman take her in and feed her well until she turns into the fattest, prettiest cat they have ever seen.
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LibraryThing member ewang109
Gág, W. (1928). Millions of Cats. London: Puffin.

In Millions of Cats, a couple decides that they want a “sweet little fluffy cat.” The wife believes that having a cat will make them feel less lonely. The husband travels far to find a cat. He soon discovers that there is a hill covered with
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cats. The husband cannot decide which cat to take home, because all of them are pretty. So he takes all of them home. When he arrives at home, his wife is shocked to see so many cats. She points out that they cannot feed all the cats. They do not know which one to pick, so they let the cats decide which one is the prettiest among them. The cats begin to quarrel. Very soon, they eat one another. All the cats are gone except for a scraggly, thin kitten. This kitten was only alive because it did not try to fight the other cats as the most beautiful kitten. In fact, this kitten only saw itself as a “homely little cat.”

Aside from being a Newbery Honor winner, this book is significant because it was considered to be the first modern picture book (“Hundred Books that Shaped the Century,” 2010). The black and white pictures coincide well with the story. The drawings are detailed, highlighting the vast amount of cats that follow the old man. Millions of Cats also emphasized a storyteller’s cadence because of its repeating phrase: “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.”

Children will probably empathize with the homely, humble kitten. The story has somewhat of an “ugly duckling theme” to it. The couple feeds the kitten, and it becomes healthy. In the end, the couple believes that this one kitten is the prettiest cat ever.

Lastly, this book could be used to teach numbers to children. The story could be used to teach the differences between hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, and trillions.
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LibraryThing member jakdomin
Millions of Cats is definitely one of my favorite picture storybooks. Although it is in all black and white the clever and catchy rhymes keep you reading without thought. The story of these millions and trillions of cats ends on a rather somber note but teaches the lesson of why you shouldn’t
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brag. The immensity of the amount of cats the main character had collected is outrageous which makes the book so enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member caitsm
A very old man and a very old woman live together, but are very lonely. They decide they want a cat to keep them company so the man sets off to go find one. He comes to a hill with millions of cats and cannot decide which one is the prettiest cat so he brings them all home! Read more to find out
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the trouble that can cause the couple!
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LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
I've just finished reading the book, and while I enjoyed the story itself, I did not find the illustrations all that appealing. I have never really liked black and white illustrations, and the many, many cats together kind of reminded me of masses of lemmings, rodents or locusts, faceless swarms of
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animals with no personalities or individual features (the only personable cat, in my opinion, is the little kitten left at the end, all the others are just a big mass of "catdom").

After having read some of the reviews from GR friends regarding this story, I was actually at first reluctant to read it, as I assumed that it would describe in detail the cats eating each other and fighting amongst themselves. However, as others have stated, the violence (or rather, the supposed violence, as we only have the assumption of the old couple that the cats might have eaten each other) happens off-screen and thus is not visible or even described. I think that there is also an element of disbelief present; the old man brings home not only too many cats, but millions of them. This element of disbelief renders the story less problematic for children, who often seem able to accept violence in fairy and folk tales, simply because it is often quite unbelievable, or just too outrageous and exaggerated.

For me, this was not only an entertaining and intriguing story (albeit with illustrations that I personally did not find all that appealing), but also a cautionary tale about human responsibility, or more to the point, the lack of human responsibility. It was the old man's responsibility to find one cat to bring home, but he brought home millions. And later, when it becomes obvious that there are simply too many cats, the old couple again does not face their responsibility or accountability; they simply force the cats to fight it out amongst themselves. Furthermore, the fact that the original hill the old man sees is literally covered with domestic feral cats might also be seen as a lack of pan-human responsibility to both our domesticated animals (including pets) and the environment in general (humans abandoning domestic cats in the wild and not realising or caring that there are likely not enough natural spaces available for all of them, that the feral cats will also need to eat and drink, and that the cats' presence will obviously also affect the environment, their surroundings). I know that many people regard this picture book as an allegory against vanity, but I think that it should also be seen as an allegory against irresponsibility. You might even say that it is one of the first picture books to somewhat promote environmental responsibility, by showing that we cannot simply allow our domestic animals to overrun nature.
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LibraryThing member smaashthemac
This was a fun picture book that my boyfriend recommended to me because I love cats so much. A lonely couple wants a cat, and somehow instead amass millions of them, and then struggle with how to feed and love all of them. In the end, they wind up with a perfect cat who isn't the most beautiful,
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but they love him very much just the same. I didn't really like the illustrations at all, but I did like the story.
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LibraryThing member cassinolan
A lonely elderly couple who decide to get a cat and get more than they bargained for. Very stimulating illustration.
LibraryThing member erineell
Millions of Cats is a delightful story of a very old man and woman who are in search of a “sweet little fluffy cat” and find themselves in a furry predicament when they have to chose which feline to keep. Not knowing how to decide, the couple leaves the decision up to the cats. The outcome is a
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quarrel and a homely kitten that makes for their perfect pet. Gág writes in such a way, that the story flows with rhythm and rhyme, by using repeated lines, such as “Hundreds of cats, Thousands of cats, Million and billions and trillions of cats.” The black and white illustrations capture the key events of the story, making them able to stand-alone. The universal theme of companionship is appealing to most readers. This book is perfect for a child’s bedtime story or a whole group read aloud. It’s no wonder that Wanda Gág is considered to be an inspiration for many children authors. Her story Millions of Cats, stirred all the warm fuzzes inside the animal lover in me, reminding me of all the ways that I have wound up bringing home more than one animal.

Age Appropriate: 3 to 8 years old

Gág, W. (1928). Millions of cats. New York: Coward-McCann.

Another book from this decade is listed below:
Milne, A. A. (1926). Winnie-the-Pooh. New York: Dutton Children’s Books.
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LibraryThing member fonsecaelib530A
Gág, W. (1956). Millions of cats. New York: G. P. Putman’s Sons. (Original work published 1928).
Age: 3 to 6 years old
A very old couple lives in a nice clean house surrounded by flowers, but they cannot be happy because they feel very lonely. The old woman decides that a cat is the solution to
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their loneliness. The old man then leaves home in search of one cat but ends up finding a million. Unable to choose, he brings all cats home. His wife realizes they cannot feed all of them and asks the cats to select the prettiest of them all. The cats, prompted by vanity, cannot decide, and a big fight ensues. The couple hides in the house until all the noise stops. When they come out, all the cats have disappeared—they ate each other—with the exception of one, the only cat that did not think itself too pretty to get in the fight. The couple adopts the cat, cares for it, until it becomes the prettiest of all cats.

The hand-lettered text and the illustrations work in perfect harmony, with the pictures adding vivid details to the simplicity of the text. The setting presented in the illustrations spills from one page to the next, giving the story continuity. The characters, even though not thoroughly developed, ring true to the reader, and their loneliness makes them more human. The gruesome end of the cats teaches the reader to avoid vanity. There is no happy ending for those who think too much of themselves; the homely kitty’s humble opinion of itself saves its life and brings rewards. Children delight in the rhyming patterns, the beautiful illustrations, and the happy ending. Teachers read the book aloud as they share Gás’ beautiful art with the students. Millions of Cats is a 1929 Newbury Honor book and the oldest American picture book in print.
Milne, A. A., & Shepard, E. H. (1992). Winnie the Pooh. New York, NY: Puffin Books. (Original work published 1926).
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LibraryThing member JusticeEvans
A very old man sets of to find a cat for a pet for the very old woman. He comes to a land of millions of cats. Unable to choose, he returns with all of them. The couple decide to allow the cats to choose who will stay. A huge quarrel erupts. Eventually, only one cat remains; it becomes the beloved
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pet of the very old couple.

An old book, from 1928, this makes for a great read aloud. It is a wonderful way to demonstrate what picture books of old looked like and what their stories were like. The language dates the story, which is a great experience for modern children.
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LibraryThing member JeneenNammar
4 years old to 7. Winner of a Newbery Honor and distinguished as the first modern American picture book, Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats from 1928 still delights today. In it a peasant man sets off to find a cat for his wife, but when he cannot decide which cat is the prettiest, he brings back
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millions instead. The old man asks the cats which one of them is the prettiest, but this produces a quarrel and the cats eat each other up until there is only one scraggly cat left. Then the old couple gives it so much care that it becomes beautiful. So Gag provides a moral that children can understand, that there doesn't need to be a competition because love and care will make one beautiful. She pairs this with black and white illustrations that cleverly use perspective to show movement and travel. In 1928, Gag had only had two colors available for the cover illustration, black and red, and only black for the inside illustrations. But by spreading her illustrations over two pages and using scale to make hills and clouds closer or farther away, the reader really gets a sense of movement through the story and is brought more deeply in. This book is still highly recommended for public library collections. Pivotal and influential in its time, Millions of Cats feels like a modern tale.
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LibraryThing member pdye
A man goes on an adventure to find the prettiest cat for his wife but in his search he brings home hundreds, millions and billions of cats. They have to pick one and in the end they have one that did not feel so great about itself but was perfect for them. The repetion and illistrations are very
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appealing parts of this book.
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LibraryThing member Homeschoolbookreview
Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman who were unhappy because they were very lonely. The old woman decided that they needed a cat, so the old man set out to find one. Finally, he came to a hill which was covered with “Cats here, cats there, cats and kittens everywhere,
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hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” He never could decide which one to choose, so he brought them all home. However, the old woman knew that they could never feed them all, so they determine to keep only the prettiest one. But how will they decide which one is prettiest? And what will happen to all the others?
This enchanting tale was a recipient of the 1929 Newbery Honor Book Award. It has been said that it is a wonderful story of vanity versus humility. Gag's simple yet appealing black ink drawings are perfect illustrations of the plot and are able to capture the idea of millions of cats on a single page. We are a cat-loving family, and our experience confirms the nature of cats as described by Gag. By modern standards, it is basically a picture book. In fact, many children's literature historians consider Millions of Cats to be the origin of the modern picture book. The Caldecott Medal was created in the late 1930's, in part to recognize books such as this.
A couple of reviewers did not like it because the million cats eat each other in a battle over who is the prettiest and because it raised too many questions about why all the cats were fighting and what happened to the other cats. Actually, the old man and woman just assumed that the cats must have eaten each other. They could have fought and then just run away. On the other hand, most people who have reviewed the book said that they enjoyed it. Other books by Gag include The ABC Bunny, also a Newbery Honor winner (1934); The Funny Thing; Gone Is Gone: or the Story of a Man Who Wanted to Do Housework; and Snippy And Snappy. For those who are interested in further information, there is also a biography, Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, by Deborah Kogan Ray.
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LibraryThing member J.Bryan
I loved this book so much as a child, I wish I had a copy of it now. I took it out repeatedly from Purley Library. I don't recall the cover but I do remember millions of cats swarming over a hillside, and I loved them all.



Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

6.82 inches


0698200918 / 9780698200913


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