It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

By: Kyo Maclear

Illustrator: Julie Morstad

Growing up in California, Gyo Fujikawa always knew that she wanted to be an artist. She was raised among strong women, including her mother and her teachers, who encouraged her to fight for what she believed in. During World War II, Gyo’s family was forced to abandon everything and were taken to an internment camp in Arkansas. Far away from home and from her family, Gyo worked as an illustrator in New York while her innocent family was imprisoned.

Seeing the diversity around her and feeling pangs from her own childhood, Gyo became determined to show all types of children—white, black, Asian, girl, boy, immigrant—in her books for children. There had to be a world where they saw themselves represented. Gyo’s book Babies was initially rejected by her publisher at Grosset & Dunlap. But after Gyo insisted, they finally relented, and Babies went on to sell almost two million copies. Gyo’s books paved the way for publishers, teachers, and readers to see what we can be when we welcome others into our world.

Note from the author and illustrator. Time line of Gyo Fujikawa’s life, with photographs. Full-color illustrations.

ISBN: 9780062447623

JLG Release: Mar 2020


Sensitive Areas: Discrimination: Reference/Discussion
Topics: Gyo Fujikawa (1908–1998) , US illustrators , Women artists , Japanese Americans , Biography , Japanese internment during World War II , Children’s book creators

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Awards & Honors

Kirkus Best Books - 2019
CPL Best Books - 2019

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Publishers Weekly*, Kirkus Reviews*, School Library Journal*, The Horn Book Magazine, Booklist*

School Library Journal

When Gyo Fujikawa submitted the first book she had written and illustrated, her publishers hesitated. In 1963, a book with black, white, and Asian babies engaged in daily activities was highly unusual. Maclear and Morstad introduce readers to the artist whose quiet insistence led to the publication of the groundbreaking work. Born in California in When Gyo Fujikawa submitted the first book she had written and illustrated, her publishers hesitated. In 1963, a book with black, white, and Asian babies engaged in daily activities was highly unusual. Maclear and Morstad introduce readers to the artist whose quiet insistence led to the publication of the groundbreaking work. Born in California in 1908, Fujikawa was often ignored by white classmates but felt the support of her high school teachers. Her varied career included painting murals, working for Walt Disney Studios, and drawing for magazines. When her West Coast family was sent to an internment camp in 1942, she kept working to help support them. Her commitment to equality and justice helped promote diverse children’s books, including more than 50 she created. Many illustrations recall the elegance and simplicity of Fujikawa’s own work with plain backgrounds that allow readers to focus on the main subjects: a night scene of her mother burning possessions before the family’s forced departure. Tiny figures dwarfed by barracks at the internment camp. A colorful swirling kimono during Fujikawa’s 1932 study visit to Japan contrasts with black-and-white drawings of times of sadness. Two pages of photos and chronological highlights follow the main text.Maclear and Morstad pack a lot of information into a few pages. This exemplary biography of a pioneer in multicultural children’s books deserves a place in most collections.

Horn Book

“In early 1960s America, a country with laws that separated people by skin color,” Japanese American artist Gyo Fujikawa (1908–1998) helped break the color bar¬rier in picture books with her now-classic Babies. Author Maclear lucidly outlines a remarkable life of art and creativity, of struggle and perseverance. Growing up in Californ “In early 1960s America, a country with laws that separated people by skin color,” Japanese American artist Gyo Fujikawa (1908–1998) helped break the color bar¬rier in picture books with her now-classic Babies. Author Maclear lucidly outlines a remarkable life of art and creativity, of struggle and perseverance. Growing up in California, Fujikawa excelled at drawing but “sometimes still felt invisible among her mostly white classmates.” This feeling of isolation would continue into adulthood and an art career in New York City, and especially during WWII when her West Coast–based family was incarcerated in internment camps. The telling makes smooth transitions between stages in Fujikawa’s life, culminating in the publication of Babies in 1963: “At the library and bookshop, it was the same old stories…a world of only white children. Gyo knew a book could hold and do more.” Morstad’s illustrations—in liquid watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayons—effectively vary in style and coloring to match events. In a WWII scene, a simple black line drawing shows the Fujikawa family looking fearful before an armed guard. During scenes of Babies’s creation, the art capably mimics Fujikawa’s own, with a diverse cast of frolicsome tots dotting an open layout, “welcom¬ing kids in from the edges, from the corners, from the shadows.” An appendix includes a photo-illustrated timeline, notes, and sources.

Book Details

ISBN

9780062447623

First Release

March 2020

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

B

Trim Size

11" x 9"

Page Count

48

Accelerated Reader

Level 3.9; Points: 0.5;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Harper

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Discrimination: Reference/Discussion

Topics

Gyo Fujikawa (1908–1998), US illustrators, Women artists, Japanese Americans, Biography, Japanese internment during World War II, Children’s book creators,

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