What makes an artist? What sparks their imagination? And where do their creativity and style come from? In her new graphic novel anthology Before They Were Artists, Elizabeth Haidle brings to life the childhood experiences of six legendary children’s illustrators: Wanda Gág, Tove Jansson, Hayao Miyazaki, Yuyi Morales, Jerry Pinkney, and Maurice Sendak, capturing the early triumphs, failures, and inspirations that paved the way for their artistic careers.

In this excerpt, Wanda Gág—writer and illustrator of the oldest American picture book still in print, Millions of Cats—is introduced to readers, beginning with her birth into an artistic family and following her responsibilities as the eldest of six as she juggles her newfound passion for drawing with supporting her family after her parents’ deaths.

Before They Were Artists: Famous Illustrators as Kids by Elizabeth Haidle. HMH/Etch, $17.99 Apr. 20 ISBN 978-1-328-80154-8