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Millions of Cats (Paperstar) Paperback – June 18, 1996
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Millions of Cats is a wonderful tale of vanity versus humility, written and illustrated by the singular Wanda Gag. An old man and his wife decide to get a cat, so the old man goes out in search of the prettiest cat of all. When he is forced to choose from "hundreds, thousands, millions and billions and trillions" of cats, he (naturally) brings them all home. When the wife points out their inability to support the legion of felines, it is left to the cats to decide who among them is the prettiest. Anyone who has ever owned more than a single cat can tell you what happens next.
Gag's simple, appealing black ink drawings are perfect for the story, somehow capturing at least the idea of millions of cats in a single page. Repeated lines and the sing-song title refrain make this a read-aloud natural.(Ages 4 to 8) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Inducted into the Picture Book Hall of Fame in 2017 by the Indies Choice Book Awards
"This Newbery Honor winner is distinguished by innovative design and a strong storyteller's cadence." —School Library Journal's "One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century"
"A perennial favorite."—The New York Times
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story and or illustrations. I rate it as one of the top ten children's books of all time. A must-read about humility, as well as,
hundred, thousands, and millions of cats!
My personal experience was fondness. Looking back on it now, I am still fond of it. Some children will simply find it interesting. I was one of those. I liked cats and I loved the little cat at the end. As an adult, I see its morals quite clearly. I also am fine with it. It all depends on a person's response to morbidity. If one comes to like things like Edward Gorey, Roman Dirge or Tim Burton... The bat of an eye seems less plausible. This book is as safe as the original takes on fairy tales - you know, before Disney.
Anyway, for parents who are leery, there is a lesson to learn in this story.
Moral: Vanity can lead to one's downfall. Be humble and practical and good things (hopefully) will come in reward.
As noted, there were some issues with how things were done. The following will have spoilers.
Vanity is displayed through most of the book. It led to the downfall of both the old man and the millions of billions of cats. The old man mainly cared for a good looking cat. One always looked better than the other to him. He needed to keep what the true goal was in mind. He should have only looked for what cat could serve the purpose he and his wife were looking for. In the end, he took all and in turn took on a task beyond his control.
The cats were more or less fine until near the end. The wife, upon seeing the many cats, reminds the old man of the true purpose of his quest. They thus can only keep one. In turn, all the cats that were wrong for the couple in the beginning brought upon their own downfall for being too proud. They only cared for their own gain in the matter. They were superficial and in the end none were left to gain the "prize".
The moral shines through in the end though when the couple does find the right cat for them.
Perhaps one will find that too psychological for a child to grasp, but as noted, for a child to understand... well, you either have to go into great explanation or hope your child applies the same understanding of most original fairy tales to this book - they simply find it amusing and don't ask questions.
If they do, just give them the story at its value.
"If I am pretty, will I be eaten up?"
No. The kitten in the end ended up being very pretty and he was never eaten up. What it is saying is, if you are beautiful on the outside, be beautiful on the inside as well. The cat in the end displayed that.
"What if I say I am the prettiest to someone?"
That would be rude. It can hurt feelings. Like in the book, the little kitten did not say a word. It thought it was no better than anyone. The other cats became angry with each other because none of them wanted to feel less important than another, when in truth they were all equal.
"Why did they eat each other?"
They let their hatred eat at themselves and in turn destroyed each other through that. (It is pretty difficult to go into metaphors of greed and vanity consuming a person being displayed in blatant eating an opponent physically.)
The list can go on.
There is also another faint moral. Treat others kindly and good things can happen for you and that person. The kitten was small, scrawny and unloved. The old man likely never would have given it a second thought, as the cat believed. With it being the only one left and after they witnessed the terribleness of the physically beautiful cats, they decided to take care of it. By being given kindness and love, the kitten grew to be a fine cat and both it and the couple were happy. Again, vanity plays in. Look beyond the book cover, and all.
Therefore, this story could be pretty much ANYTHING to a child. In the end, you must be the judge.