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

Illustrated by Julie Morstad

A story that poignantly portrays the life of Gyo Fujikawa, a groundbreaking hero in the fight for racial diversity in picture books.

Gyo Fujikawa’s iconic children’s books are beloved all over the world. Now it’s time for Gyo’s story to be told — a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations.

Growing up at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo’s career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting — for herself, her vision, her family and her readers — and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together.

This new book openly touches on Gyo’s difficult experiences and growth. Through Julie Morstad’s illustrations, alternating between striking black-and-white linework and lush colour, and Kyo Maclear’s writing, the story of this cherished figure is told at last.


It Began With a Page book cover
  • United States: HarperCollins, 2019
  • Canada: Tundra Books, 2019
  • Japan: Froebel-kan, 2020
  • Italy: Kirakira Edizioni, 2020


Julie Morstad

Julie Morstad is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including Today, How to, Swan, The Dress and the Girl and Bloom. Julie makes her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her family. You can find her at



“Often mimicking Fujikawa’s style, Morstad layers engaging details and deep emotional resonance onto Maclear’s spare, poetic text… A splendid picture-book celebration of an artist and activist.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“In spare, elegant spreads and graceful prose, frequent collaborators Maclear and Morstad (Bloom) tell the story of Japanese-American illustrator Gyo Fujikawa (1908–1998). …Maclear and Morstad’s biography conveys with quiet power how recently segregation reached into every aspect of American life, and how one woman did her part to defeat it.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred)

“Maclear and Morstad pack a lot of information into a few pages. This exemplary biography of a pioneer in multicultural children’s books deserves a place in most collections.”
School Library Journal (Starred)

“Written and illustrated with clean, spare lines, the book reveals emotions in an understated manner… This beautiful biography offers a fitting tribute to an artist with a lasting legacy in American picture books.”
— Booklist (Starred)

“Long-time collaborators Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad (Julia, Child; Bloom) reunite with this biographical picture book sure to enthrall children’s literature fans and aspiring artists alike.”
Quill and Quire (Starred)

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, tells Gyo’s story beautifully, in picture-book form.”
The New Yorker

“A stunning encapsulation of the Japanese-American woman who fought racism, sexism, and more through the power of her art… Maclear uses Gyo’s life as a template for the wider world, but never loses focus. The premise is that this person is extraordinary, and the text bears that out.”
Betsy Bird, School Library Journal

“In spare lyrical text, Kyo Maclear tells the story of the Japanese-American children’s author and illustrator Gyo Fujikawa…Julie Morstad’s illustrations are a confident mix of color and black-and-white images in dynamic compositions. Many are on a clean white background, underscoring the potential of an empty page for a creative person.”
New York Times

“Maclear and Morstad team up gloriously in this biography and homage to the first American children’s illustrator to depict a multiracial cast — an artist whose books are still favourites today. In lucid, quietly artful prose, Maclear tells of Gyo’s life… Maclear’s lightness of touch — and Fujikawa’s own style — are beautifully rendered in Morstad’s clean, spacious pages, subtle palette, and restrained, delicate line drawings. Highly recommended.”
Toronto Star

“It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Tundra Books, 4-8) is a love letter to the work of the Japanese children’s book writer and illustrator whose book, Babies, changed the way that we think about picture books. Babies was one of the first picture books to include children of all races at a moment when civil rights was just gearing up in the United States. It’s a book about the passion to create and to challenge preconceptions, about a writer whose books are still loved by young readers but whose story hasn’t been told. Morstad’s watercolour, pencil and gouache illustrations perfectly mirror Fujikawa’s inventive work.”
The Globe and Mail

“Morstad’s carefully crafted watercolor illustrations alternate between gouache and pencil crayon to reveal emotions and highlight historical moments that affected Fujikawa’s life. Maclear’s thoughtful use of language narrate Gyo’s life and the reader can understand the circumstances that led Gyo Fujikawa to her revolutionary work. Highly recommended.”
Young Adulting

“The creators’ treatment of Fujikawa’s life and art was so delightful, in fact, that my 11-year-old daughter clapped when she finished reading the book. High praise indeed.”
The Rafu Shimpo

“Well worthy of purchase, It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way is a lovingly told story of a trailblazer who fought for inclusivity in children’s books and built a successful career which spanned more than four decades.”
CM Reviews, Highly Recommended

““Kyo Maclear’s thoughtful text offers readers an authentic look at the isolation of Gyo’s childhood, the artistic path taken, the turmoil of World War II for her Japanese family, and the career that led to designing books at Disney, decorating store windows, creating stamps, painting murals, and eventually writing and illustrating books for children that showed the multiculturalism she saw everywhere she looked.”
Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Playful, bold, and, much like its subject, full of grace.”
—Jillian Tamaki, Caldecott Honor winner for This One Summer

“The creators’ treatment of Fujikawa’s life and art was so delightful, in fact, that my 11-year old daughter clapped when she finished reading the book. High praise indeed.”
International Examiner