Review by Valeria De La Vega
Tundra, Penguin Random House Canada, 3 September 2019
48 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-1-10191-859-3
Ages 7+, Grades 2+
Picture Book, Non-Fiction
Enter any bookstore and you’ll find picture books in which children of all ethnicities play together, solve mysteries, and have adventures. However, that wasn’t always the case. Before and during the 1960s, children’s books would not mix characters of different colours. Racial segregation in North America impacted the cultural production of the period. Nevertheless, this changed, and in picture books it started with a Japanese American woman named Gyo Fujikawa.
It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad is a biography that you’ll want in your personal library. It thoughtfully investigates Fujikawa’s groundbreaking life and shows how she fought sexism and racial discrimination in the United States of America. She changed the way picture books were published and opened up a new world for young readers of all ethnic backgrounds who could identify themselves in the pages of the books. She single-handedly helped introduce inclusion and diversity to the genre.
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.
Valeria De La Vega is a Colombian who has recently immigrated to Canada to peruse a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature. She is interested in stories that she can relate to from her life experience as an immigrant, Latin American, and stories she can relate to from her country’s history.