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

by Kyo Maclear (Author) Julie Morstad (Illustrator)

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

* 4 Starred Reviews *

* An Indie Next List Pick *

"Playful, bold, and, much like its subject, full of grace." --Jillian Tamaki, Caldecott Honor winner for This One Summer

"It Began with a Page tells [Gyo Fujikawa's] story beautifully, in picture-book form." --The New Yorker

From beloved team Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad (creators of Julia, Child and Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli) comes an elegant picture book biography that portrays the most moving moments in the life of Gyo Fujikawa, a groundbreaking Japanese American hero in the fight for racial diversity in picture books.

Equal parts picture book biography, inspiring story, and a look at racial diversity in America, It Began with a Page is a gem for any book lover, librarian, or child who dares to dream big.

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 teachers, who encouraged her to fight for what she believed in. During World War II, Gyo's family was forced to abandon everything and was taken to an internment camp in Arkansas.

Far away from home, 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 in the pages of her books. There had to be a world where they saw themselves represented.

Gyo's book Babies was initially rejected by her publisher, but after she 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.

The book includes extensive back matter, including a note from the creators, a timeline, archival photos, and further information on Gyo Fujikawa.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Often mimicking Fujikawa's style, Morstad layers engaging details and deep emotional resonance onto Maclear's spare, poetic text...A splendid picture-book celebration of an artist and activist.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In spare, elegant spreads and graceful prose, frequent collaborators Maclear and Morstad (Bloom) tell the story of Japanese-American illustrator Gyo Fujikawa (1908-1998). An artist from the beginning, "she loved the feel of the pencil in her hand." Fujikawa is treated like an outsider throughout her California upbringing but remains determined, attending college and traveling to Japan. Working as a freelance artist in New York City when WWII breaks out, she's heartbroken when her family members, along with thousands of other Japanese-American citizens, are interned. In Morstad's artwork, crisp line drawings alternate with lively watercolor and gouache scenes that revolve around patterned textiles; the art fades with the onset of war and revivifies as Fujikawa sketches the beginnings of Babies. When one spread shows white and black babies together, the publisher rejects it until Fujikawa, recalling "all the times she had felt unseen and unwelcome," persuades them otherwise. Happily, the book is a success, and "Gyo kept going. Welcoming kids in from the edges, from the corners." Maclear and Morstad's biography conveys with quiet power how recently segregation reached into every aspect of American life, and how one woman did her part to defeat it. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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.--Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Kyo Maclear
KYO MACLEAR is an essayist, novelist, and children's author. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and published in over twenty countries. She has earned multiple awards, including a Governor General's Award, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award, a USBBY Outstanding International Book (Virginia Wolf), the IODE Ontario Jean Throop Award (Yak and Dove), the Trillium Book Award (Birds Art Life), and the White Raven Award (Virginia Wolf and The Liszts). She has received nominations for the Kate Greenaway Medal (The Liszts), several Forest of Reading nominations, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award (The Good Little Book), and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize (Birds Art Life). Kyo holds a doctorate in environmental humanities and is on faculty at the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA and the Humber School for Writers.

RASHIN KHEIRIYEH is an internationally recognized, award-winning illustrator/author, animation director, and painter who has published over seventy children's books in countries such as the United States, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Spain, South Korea, China, Brazil, India, and Iran. She has received fifty national and international awards
for the books and animations including recently being winner of the 2017 Sendak Fellow Award. She was also the winner of the Bologna Book Fair six times and the winner of Golden Apple Award at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB), Slovakia. She has an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Illustration and an MFA in Graphic Design from Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran. She also studied at School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. She is a lecturer at Department of Art, University of Maryland and has contributed illustrations to the New York Times, Google, and many other publication houses around the world.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2019

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