Maclear, Kyo. It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. Harper, 2019. 48 pgs. $17.99. 978-0062447623
The life of illustrator and social justice advocate Gyo Fujikawa is poignantly portrayed through simple text and gorgeous illustrations. Enduring prejudice against her Japanese heritage (her family was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp), as well as sexism, Fujikawa built a career that spanned four decades and included books, postage stamps, window art, murals, greeting cards, and magazine covers. Fujikawa was an ardent forerunner in producing diverse books for children, insisting in 1963 on the inclusion of racially diverse characters in her debut board book Babies (Grosset & Dunlap). This wonderful biography does its subject justice in words and pictures well suited to the young audience favored by Fujikawa. Artist Julie Morstad’s soft, textured style brings the story to life in liquid watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayons. Illustrations pop against a white background while the format pays tribute to Fujikawa’s picture books - occasional pages in black and white anticipate page-turns that yield to vivid color. Morstad pays further homage to Fujikawa by including accurate reproductions of her signature drawings of children and babies - beloved heros and heroines of Fujikawa’s many racially diverse books for young children. Backmatter provides more comprehensive coverage and context and includes a timeline, photographs, author’s note, and bibliography. This beautiful book presents an integral, but lesser known, piece of children’s literature history and is essential for diverse, historically comprehensive collections.