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

HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2019. 48p. bibliog. photos. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062447623.
K-Gr 4–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.
VERDICT  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.

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