In this informative, spirited picture book, children will encounter Gyo Fujikawa, an artist and illustrator who helped break the color barrier in children’s publishing. Born in 1909 in Berkeley, California, the child of first-generation Japanese Americans, Gyo loved to draw at an early age. And as she listened to her mother and her Japanese friends talk, Gyo learned about the importance of human rights.
Though at home, Gyo was encouraged to develop her gifts, at school she felt like an outsider, an invisible student. No one helped her mature in her confidence or abilities.
When Gyo’s family moved to a California fishing village, Gyo began to attend another school. Though her white classmates ignored her, two teachers noticed her artistic abilities, and they helped her secure funding to attend a college in Los Angeles. Later, she studied art in Japan. Upon her return to America, she moved to the east coast to continue her work as an artist. Because she lived there, she wasn’t deported to an internment camp when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. But her family on the west coast was interned, a terrible injustice that caused Gyo deep pain.
Later, during the time of the Civil Rights movement, Gyo began to write and illustrate children’s picture books. When she submitted her first book portraying children of different races, the publisher rejected it, protesting that “mixing white babies and black babies” on the same page was not permitted. But Gyo “remembered all the times she had felt unseen and unwelcome,” and she persisted, telling the publisher that things had to change. Finally, they agreed, and a few years later, Gyo’s book, Babies, was published, a small step on the journey to equality between races. (HarperCollins)