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

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
by Kyo Maclear; illus. by Julie Morstad
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    48 pp.
10/19    978-0-06-244762-3    $17.99

"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 barrier 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 scene of Babies's creation, the art capably mimics Fujikawa's own, with a diverse cast of frolicsome tots dotting an open layout, "welcoming kids in from the edges, from the corners, from the shadows." An appendix includes a photo-illustrated timeline, notes, and sources.

From the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is former managing editor and projects editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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