Gyo Fujikawa: It Began With a Page….

Gyo Fujikawa

When you grow up with an author/illustrator’s books, they become part of your definition of “home” or “reading” or “friend.”

Gyo Fujikawa is one of those authors for me. I remember Oh, What a Busy Day in particular.

Gyo Fujikawa’s Books

What makes Fujikawa’s books memorable? For starters, she was one of the very first to include children of many different races in her books. Not only does she illustrate many different races, she depicts them all doing ordinary things.

cover image of Oh What a Busy Day by Gyo Fujikawa

Fujikawa wasn’t writing history books for toddlers or trying to show one people group as a distinct culture. Instead, she focused on activities and interests that most American children would have shared in the mid-20th century: drinking from the hose! Arguing with one another and making up. Listening to stories. Holding hands and running through the grass. Books like Oh, What a Busy Day and Babies are an absolute delight and young children love them.

cover image of Mother Goose by Gyo Fujikawa

Her Mother Goose book has fewer non-white children in it than some of her others, but I can’t think of another Mother Goose book–certainly one from the same era–that includes nonwhite children at all. Her children’s poetry book includes multiple child-friendly poems ranging from nursery rhymes to Tennyson to Proverbs. A fantastic collection for anyone.

cover image of fairy tales and fables by gyo fujikawa

Fairy Tales and Fables is strikingly homogeneous in its human characters compared to many of Fujikawa’s other works; they are predominantly white. That being said, her collection is a delightful mix of familiar stories (like “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Little Red Hen,” “Sleeping Beauty”) and less well known tales (such as “The Wise Man of Gotham,” “The Dragon and the Monkey,” and “The Magpie’s Nest”).

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

It Began With a Page is a new picture book biography of Gyo Fujikawa, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad. Published by HarperCollins in 2019, It Began With a Page is a lovely homage to Fujikawa and her art.

cover image of it began with a page about gyo fujikawa

Maclear’s simple and straightforward text sets off Morstad’s delicate art that’s reminiscent of Fujikawa’s own art. Fujikawa’s life wasn’t all roses, and Maclear doesn’t shield young readers from events like World War II or how hard Fujikawa had to work to get publishers to publish her books with nonwhite children.

A lovely, sweet story for fans of Fujikawa’s work, this is a picture book biography to look for when you’re next at the library!

What’s YOUR favorite Gyo Fujikawa book? Did you read them as a child? Do you read them now to your children?

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.


  1. Janie on July 13, 2020 at 5:26 am

    My mother gave me a copy of Oh What a Busy Day when my daughter was born. When she was old enough, she wanted me to read it to her EVERY DAY. Had the thing memorized.

  2. Nellie on July 13, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    “BABIES”! We love Gyo Fujikawa illustrations in our house. Also “The Night Before Christmas” she illustrated because Santa looks like a “right jolly old elf”! (The short cute kind, not the tall skinny kind)

  3. Adrianna on July 13, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    They are loved here too: Babies, Oh What a Busy Day, also, I think, Mother Goose. Don’t know if I read them to my boys, but certainly with children I provided care for in my home. Quite sure the grandchildren received them too. The illustrations are charming.

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