We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2020 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
This picturebook is not necessarily about comic creators, but about a fearless woman who has changed the face of picturebook art.
It Began With A Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew The Way (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written by Kyo Maclear Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Published by Tundra Books (2019)
ISBN: 1101918594 (ISBN13: 9781101918593). Literary Awards: Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor Book, Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies (NCSS/CBC). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
Gyo Fujikawa was born in 1908 in California to first-generation Japanese American immigrants as was noted in the timeline of her life found at the end of the book. She grew up during a period when racial segregation was the norm, anything else was considered unacceptable.
Yet this young girl regarded each day like a new page, waiting for her pencil sketches and colours. I found the images of her being treated as an outsider, and going through her school life invisible – especially poignant (see below):
However, all these experiences were tucked away in the corners of Gyo’s mind, and shaped the artist that she would eventually become. Her talent in art made her visible to her teachers who helped her obtain a college education, where once again, she was pretty much an outsider.
This sense of being continually considered the other, despite her being born in California to hardworking and upstanding citizens of their adopted country, came to an even horrific level during the war, when everyone with a Japanese name were imprisoned by the government. Gyo was spared from this cruelty because she lived in the East, but her parents and her family who lived on the West Coast lost everything.
I am amazed at the depth of Kyo Maclear’s narrative. She managed to cover almost the entirety of Gyo Fujikawa’s life in such a concise, distilled, very powerful and lyrical manner. Julie Morstad’s art was especially edifying. The gradual build-up towards Gyo’s eventually becoming a pioneer in picturebook art was also masterfully executed. It is no wonder that this book is winning all the awards. This is a book that would stay with me for a long time. For readers who would like to find Gyo Fujikawa’s books, here are a few titles where you can begin.
Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa published by Sterling in 1989 (Amazon).
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Kyo Maclear is a POC based in Canada (born in the UK).