It Began with a Page

It Began with a Page; How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa

Here is a photo of one of my favorite picture books. Tattered and worn, splintered binding, and detached cover— this book was magical to me. My mother and I spent many happy evenings looking for the tiny mouse that Gyo Fujikawa tucked in amongst the pages.

So, I have always been a huge fan of Gyo Fujikawa’s illustrations. To me, her characters are so sweet and kind. They are infused with love that elevates them to more than just ‘cute’. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about Gyo Fujikawa’s immense contribution to the world of illustration— and it made me love her work even more.

In, It Began with a Page, Kyo Maclear introduces us to Gyo. She is a young girl who loves to draw. At home, she feels that anything is possible.

“At school, no one said, “That girl sure can draw.”

No one noticed her colored pencils or box of paints.

No one even noticed when she moved away.”

We learn about her family’s internment at a prison camp during the war, during which time Gyo was in New York pursuing her career as an illustrator.

In her first children’s book that she both wrote and illustrated, Babies, Gyo Fujikawa stood firm and would only sell the book if the publisher agreed to let her illustrate a diverse group of babies.

“An international set of babies—little black babies, Asian babies, all kinds of babies.”

This had never been done before, and was groundbreaking in the 1960’s.

Gyo’s life is full of complicated ups and downs and Kyo Maclear’s storytelling is informative, not overwhelming. She gives the reader a ‘you can do it’, uplifting story. The backmatter is incredibly interesting and well-written consisting of both a timeline of Gyo’s life as well as an author/illustrator note.

Julie Morstad’s darling illustrations capture the essence of Gyo’s voice beautifully. The thoughtful use of white on the page is indicative of Gyo Fujikawa’s page layouts and design.

I hope that you, too, enjoy learning about this talented, persistent, resilient, visionary artist. And that her legacy will inspire and give confidence to young readers as well.

We still have a great deal of work to do.

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. This book looks fabulous and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for introducing me to Gyo. I will look for this book to learn more.

  3. I love uplifting stories like this! Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing.

  4. Always enjoy learning about women who were groundbreaking and visionary. Thank you for introducing me to Gyo and her illustrations. The photo of your well-loved copy of The Night Before Christmas had me smiling. ❤️

    • Hi Judy, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. As an author and/or illustrator I can’t think of a better compliment than to have your book look like my beloved copy of the Night Before Christmas. Take care!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. I, too, had that candy cane pink striped book, The Night Before Christmas. I am so glad to be able to learn more about Gyo.

  6. Jilanne Hoffmann

    I have this book in my stack right now, and love it! Great choice to feature!

  7. How wonderful to see your treasured and much-loved book. This is a lovely book! Huge fan of Kyo Maclear too!!

  8. My husband and I can’t still recite the story line of Babies. It was my children’s favourite board book.

  9. Proof we can all advocate for diversity through our work.

  10. Absolutely, Kirstie. Gyo also would only work for publishers who paid a fair wage and was one of the first author/illustrators to advocate for royalties. Thank you so much for stopping by Picture Book Builders and taking the time to comment.

  11. I also have the Night Before Christmas Book but I must say your’s has seen more wear than mine! Great piece. thank you!

  12. Loreli Stochaj

    It is weird but I read about her recently somewhere else and I went to the library to check out all her books. So it had to be per-March 13th. The pictures are magnificent.

  13. Carole Calladine

    I can’t wait to read and see this book. Thanks for sharing this story.

  14. I look forward to reading this! Love how she led the way~

  15. I have not heard about Gyo, but I do treasure my T’was the Night Before Christmas. It was published in 1953 and given to me for my first Christmas which was 3 days after I was born Dec. 22, 1953. I love that book so much that I memorized it as a child and was able to recite it every year to my students. It’s been five years since I retire, but I still can recite it word for word. Now I have a new one to look up. Thanks for this new information. Also Carter Higgins as my instructor in Storyteller Academy I thank her for putting your blog up I wouldn’t of heard of you either. I am now a fan.

  16. Wow! I’m looking forward to reading about Gyo!

  17. Yes!!! I had the same Christmas book and just adored those illustrations. Her use of color is also so calming and peaceful feeling. I’m so glad to see a book about her and what we all owe her. Thank you, Gyo! And thank you, Jennifer, for highlighting this book about her.

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