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

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Gyo Fujikawa's iconic children's books are beloved all over the world. Now it's time for Gyo's story to be told -- a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations. Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teache Gyo Fujikawa's iconic children's books are beloved all over the world. Now it's time for Gyo's story to be told -- a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations. Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo's career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family's internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting -- for herself, her vision, her family and her readers -- and later wrote and illustrated the first children's book to feature children of different races interacting together. This luminous new book beautifully and openly touches on Gyo's difficult experiences and growth. Through Julie Morstad's exquisite illustrations, alternating between striking black-and-white linework and lush colour, and Kyo Maclear's artful and accessible writing, the story of this cherished figure is told at last.


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Gyo Fujikawa's iconic children's books are beloved all over the world. Now it's time for Gyo's story to be told -- a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations. Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teache Gyo Fujikawa's iconic children's books are beloved all over the world. Now it's time for Gyo's story to be told -- a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations. Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo's career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family's internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting -- for herself, her vision, her family and her readers -- and later wrote and illustrated the first children's book to feature children of different races interacting together. This luminous new book beautifully and openly touches on Gyo's difficult experiences and growth. Through Julie Morstad's exquisite illustrations, alternating between striking black-and-white linework and lush colour, and Kyo Maclear's artful and accessible writing, the story of this cherished figure is told at last.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    La Coccinelle

    That cover isn't exactly enticing, and I might not have requested this book had it not been for the subject matter, and the author and illustrator involved. The illustrations on the inside are much more engaging, and even downright beautiful in spots. I sometimes have a hard time with picture-book biographies of artists, especially when they seem to be used as a vehicle to showcase the work of yet another artist. But in this case, Julie Morstad's illustrations really work. She depicts That cover isn't exactly enticing, and I might not have requested this book had it not been for the subject matter, and the author and illustrator involved. The illustrations on the inside are much more engaging, and even downright beautiful in spots. I sometimes have a hard time with picture-book biographies of artists, especially when they seem to be used as a vehicle to showcase the work of yet another artist. But in this case, Julie Morstad's illustrations really work. She depicts Gyo and her family during her childhood, highlighting the girl's love of drawing and art. (It doesn't hurt that Morstad's style isn't wildly different from Fujikawa's, especially when she's drawing children and babies.) Gyo was spared being sent to an internment camp during World War Two because of location (having been sent to New York City by the Walt Disney Company for work). Would we have had her lovely collection of work had she been in California in 1942? It's hard to say. But the experience did shape her, as her family ended up in the camps, and of course she experienced racism because of the way she looked (she was actually born in California, which makes the idea of sending her to a camp as a foreign enemy all the more ridiculous). I didn't realize that her book Babies was one of the first to depict a diverse selection of children. The publisher balked at first because of this! But it went on to become a bestseller, proving that there's room for everyone in children's publishing. There's a nice biographical section at the back with a timeline of her life and a few photographs. The only thing this book is really missing are some samples of Fujikawa's art (although, there may be copyright issues involved with that, so I won't hold that against the book). Overall, this is a strong picture-book biography about a woman whose art many people may have encountered in their childhood. If you're a fan of Fujikawa's work (or even if you're not), you might find this to be an interesting read. Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing a digital ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Etienne

    A short/children biography book about following your dream. I like the minimalistic illustrations style and the inspiring story. Not sure how children would enjoy it, myself find it a bit long, because it was really slow and not much happen in term of «action». It was good, but very slow...

  3. 5 out of 5

    DaNae

    A fine art biography with plenty of American history thrown in. I love the connection made from her art and the changing culture in the 1960s.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE sheds brilliant light on one of America's most forward-thinking artists and children's book makers, showing a woman who used her art to create a more inclusive and bright world. Morstad, whose illustrations often evoke the soft vibrancy of Fujikawa's, is a perfect fit in visualizing her story. Maclear's engaging paean conjures an image of Fujikawa that fits solidly in the present, making her work all the more relevant to readers today. This is an exquisite, immersive biograp IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE sheds brilliant light on one of America's most forward-thinking artists and children's book makers, showing a woman who used her art to create a more inclusive and bright world. Morstad, whose illustrations often evoke the soft vibrancy of Fujikawa's, is a perfect fit in visualizing her story. Maclear's engaging paean conjures an image of Fujikawa that fits solidly in the present, making her work all the more relevant to readers today. This is an exquisite, immersive biography that will delight anyone who loves books.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad are together again to bring us the beautiful non-fiction picture book It Began with a Page, a story about authorstrator Gyo Fujikawa, a Japanese-American writer and illustrator who broke barriers in the publishing world standing up for equal pay and her belief that all children, regardless of gender or race, should see themselves reflected in picture books. Maclear and Morstad take us through Gyo Fujikawa’s life starting as a small child and with a blank Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad are together again to bring us the beautiful non-fiction picture book It Began with a Page, a story about authorstrator Gyo Fujikawa, a Japanese-American writer and illustrator who broke barriers in the publishing world standing up for equal pay and her belief that all children, regardless of gender or race, should see themselves reflected in picture books. Maclear and Morstad take us through Gyo Fujikawa’s life starting as a small child and with a blank page. Gyo Fujikawa drew everyday, starting with a blank white page. She imagined a world filled with colour and whimsy. She lived through many hardships, being almost invisible in school, the Japanese internment during World War II and being a single woman in the male dominated publishing industry but through it all Gyo never lost her love of art and her willingness to fill blank white spaces with colour and joy. She was an original PANK (professional aunt, no kids) and doted on her niece and nephews, always making time for them at her studio. Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad treat the telling of Gyo Fujikawa’s story with such great care and admiration. You can tell from the illustrations and the words that both author and illustrator feel a strong connection to this incredible artist who paved the way for all children to see themselves reflected in the stories they were read and read themselves. Tundra designer John Martz along with illustrator Julie Morstad contrast the hardships faced by Fujikawa by using black and white illustrations with the happy times, all depicted in beautiful colour. The reader can get a visceral sense of how affecting the trials were and how buoyant and vibrant the triumphs. Babies was the first picture book to feature white children alongside children of colour and little girls and little boys doing things not typically featured in children’s literature of the time. She was a trailblazer and it’s so important to provide these stories of courageous trailblazers to show our young readers how far we have come and how far we still have yet to go. We can share these stories to encourage the next generation of trailblazers to make the world a safer more inclusive place for everybody. We need more diverse Canadian children’s literature. We need stories written by and about the experiences of underrepresented voices. The industry is beginning to change but that change is not happening fast enough. It is so important we get these stories into the hands of children who desperately need them

  6. 4 out of 5

    Storywraps

    I love biographies, especially when they are about talented creative activists that make positive changes in our world. Japanese American Gyo Fujikawa is one of those women. As a little girl she felt comfort and 'rightness' within her to draw and create. When in high school Gyo's teachers recognize her talent and encourage her to pursue her beautiful art. She attends college in 1926 when it isn't popular for women to do so and she studies abroad in Japan to deepen her artistic skills. Sadly back I love biographies, especially when they are about talented creative activists that make positive changes in our world. Japanese American Gyo Fujikawa is one of those women. As a little girl she felt comfort and 'rightness' within her to draw and create. When in high school Gyo's teachers recognize her talent and encourage her to pursue her beautiful art. She attends college in 1926 when it isn't popular for women to do so and she studies abroad in Japan to deepen her artistic skills. Sadly back in the US her family is sent to an internment camp as World War II is blazing, and because of Gyo's working location, she is spared that terrible atrocity. However it affects her heart deeply and she loses her will to draw and create. She does drawings for magazines and store window displays and then is asked to illustrate picture books. She sees her chance to fight injustice through her first book "Babies". She designs babies of all colours and ethnicities... little black babies, Asian babies, all kinds of babies... an international parade of sweet adorable babies. This has never been done before and at first it is rejected by her publisher. Finally the book is published in 1963. It is revolutionary at the time and opens up the way for those in the book world to become more imaginative and inclusive leaving no one invisible. It proves to be very popular and goes on to sell almost two million copies. "From the beloved team of Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad comes a story that poignantly portrays the life of Gyo Fujikawa, a groundbreaking hero in the fight for racial diversity in picture books." The author includes a timeline with photos and quotes, notes from the creators, and a selected biography and sources list for those who want to learn more. The book contains gorgeous illustrations and is an inspiring story about a brave and strong woman who left her artistic mark on the world and changes it for the good, forever. I love it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE brings us through the journey of Gyo Fujikawa, an incredible Japanese artist and author. Since she was a child, Gyo loved to draw. Whenever a blank white page sat in front of her, she filled it with picture after picture. Drawing came naturally and was always there to comfort her no matter what she was going through. However, in 1942, the US went to war against Japan and the Japanese Americans were forced to live in camps. When she and her family finally got out, IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE brings us through the journey of Gyo Fujikawa, an incredible Japanese artist and author. Since she was a child, Gyo loved to draw. Whenever a blank white page sat in front of her, she filled it with picture after picture. Drawing came naturally and was always there to comfort her no matter what she was going through. However, in 1942, the US went to war against Japan and the Japanese Americans were forced to live in camps. When she and her family finally got out, they had to start their lives over from scratch. In the camps, Gyo had been unable to draw, but once she was free, she took job after job as an artist. When she realized the importance of books, she began putting on of her own together. It consisted of babies of all different colors. Her publisher was reluctant to publish it because mixing cultures wasn't done in the 1960s. However, they changed their minds and her multicultural babies became a hit. Gyo Fujikawa is an artist who was ahead of her time. She saw people as people and not by the color of their skins. Even though she had a rough journey, Gyo never gave up drawing and stayed true to herself. She paved the way for more authors to include multicultural characters. Final Verdict: I would recommend this to fans of history, strong women, and drawing. This review can also be found on YABC: https://www.yabookscentral.com/kidsno...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This is an excellent picture book biography of a picture book artist who is too often overlooked now. Her life and career are fascinating, and as told in this book, the story will entertain and inform readers. I came away wanting a longer book about her, which is the only real flaw, because much of the story is very superficial. Trying to cover a 90-year life in a handful of pages is very difficult, especially when the focus of the book is very much in the style OF her work, as a picture book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    April Gray

    What a lovely book! The illustrations by Julie Morstad compliment the text by Kyo Maclear perfectly, paying tribute to Gyo Fujikawa's soft, colorful style. The story is told simply, with poetic language, and covers the events of Fujikawa's life in a way that highlights her drive and spirit. Her first book, Babies, was one of the first books to show children of different races playing together, and became a bestseller, despite her publisher's worries that people wouldn't accept it. An inspiring a What a lovely book! The illustrations by Julie Morstad compliment the text by Kyo Maclear perfectly, paying tribute to Gyo Fujikawa's soft, colorful style. The story is told simply, with poetic language, and covers the events of Fujikawa's life in a way that highlights her drive and spirit. Her first book, Babies, was one of the first books to show children of different races playing together, and became a bestseller, despite her publisher's worries that people wouldn't accept it. An inspiring and beautiful book. #ItBeganWithAPage #NetGalley

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leah Horton

    It Began With A Page is a fascinating true story about Gyo Fujikawas life. A Japanese American born in 1908 in California, her life was filled with hardship, struggles and tribulations. Being a Japanese woman, especially during WWII she faces constant opposing forces. She showed incredible strength, determination, perseverance and courage while paving the way for future strong girls and women. From working for Disney to children’s books Babies and Baby animals she did not let people hold her bac It Began With A Page is a fascinating true story about Gyo Fujikawas life. A Japanese American born in 1908 in California, her life was filled with hardship, struggles and tribulations. Being a Japanese woman, especially during WWII she faces constant opposing forces. She showed incredible strength, determination, perseverance and courage while paving the way for future strong girls and women. From working for Disney to children’s books Babies and Baby animals she did not let people hold her back. Gorgeous illustrations and an amazing story about a beautiful and strong woman!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is a look at the life story of artist Gyo Fujikawa. Later in life she became known as a children’s book writer/illustrator, but before that, she held many positions in art life, including at Disney. This story is detailed about her early life, and how she got to being a children’s book illustrator. But it basically stops there. There are very few references made to her actual books except on. I love the idea, the illustrations are great, but I think the execution could have been better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Read it. She wrote and illustrated Babies! We had that book, and I had no idea! I’m grateful to have run across this book: it’s beautiful and I learned about an illustrator I probably should have known about before. I always appreciate it when picture book bios include a spread of facts/photos at the end, and this one did. Gyo was a barrier-shattering artist who lived through some despicable periods in American history. More people should know about her!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I love Gyo Fijikawa and I'm so happy to see a biography of her life as an illustrator and Japanese American whose immigrant family faced internment. Julie Morstad is the perfect illustrator to pay homage to her style.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma (Miss Print)

    Really loved this one. A little long but a thoughtful and nuanced biography of an historical figure I wasn't familiar with. Lots of great backmatter including quotes, a timeline, and more. Gorgeous illustrations and great use of color to highlight the ebb and flow of the story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Multiculturalism; WWII Discrimination; Good biographical info.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Visually stunning and the artwork is the perfect homage to Gyo Fujikawa's own art style. Powerful story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Phenomenal. That's how you make a picture book biography.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lindi

    Emphasizes that artists get to imagine the world they want. Beautiful illustrations pay homage to Fujikawa and clear, concise writing seals the deal. A winner!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Engel Dreizehn

    It was interesting overall of the life this author-artist whow as the first with many tasks coupled with illustration that splash with both warm colours and ink drawings resembling Japanese art.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    11.10.2019: per NYTimes Children's Book's: Picture Books: Lives of the Artist review; at both Madison Co. Public Libraries...;

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andréa

    I have to admit, even though I've read several Gyo Fujikawa books, I had no idea Gyo was a woman.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    An inspiring biography of Gyo Fujikawa, artist and early advocate for diverse books, features beautiful and detailed illustrations in its own right

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate Buechler

    Peak under the book jacket for a delightful surprise

  24. 5 out of 5

    Franki Sibberson

    So happy to get an advanced copy of this book. So glad to know and be able to share this story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A beautiful introduction to Japanese-American picture book creator Gyo Ffujikawa and her pioneering efforts to bring diversity to children's books.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    KIDS OHH HOW PRECIOUS LITTLE ANGLES😇 COOL BOOK LETS NOT FOR GET MY BOOK IS ALSO OUT THERE CAN ALSO USE A RATEING 😎 THANKS

  27. 4 out of 5

    Earl

    Maclear and Morstad pair up again to tell the story of Gyo Fujikawa who broke grounds when she depicted babies of diverse backgrounds in her picture books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    I had (have?) a copy of her Children's Book of Verse. For parents or grandparents who remember picture books from the 1960s-1990s, Gyo Fujikawa's children (especially the babies) will be a nostalgic hit. I grew up being read a few of her books, in particular: A Child's Book of Poems, her illustrated Mother Goose, and my beloved copy of The Night Before Christmas. http://pussreboots.com/blog/2019/comm...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sky SF

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robyn Green

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