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

Kyo Maclear, illus. by Julie Morstad. HarperCollins, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-244762-3
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.)
Reviewed on : 07/11/2019
Release date: 10/08/2019
Genre: Children's
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