An illustration of Gyo Fujikawa putting back a page with illustrations about multiracial babies

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An illustration of Gyo Fujikawa putting back a page with illustrations about multiracial babies

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear

by | Jul 22, 2023 | Biographies | 1 comment

Gyo Fujikawa, The Japanese Disney Artist Who Drew While Her Family Was Taken to an Internment Camp


Who was Gyo Fujikawa? 

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear tells the story of artist Gyo Fujikawa. Gyo (pronounced like ghee-o) Fujikawa was a Japanese-American artist who used her talents to break racial barriers. 

After an art teacher who believed in her sponsored her way through art school, she refined her craft – even traveling to Japan to study her heritage. 

Upon returning, Gyo was employed by Walt Disney as a book designer. It was during this time, while she was in New York, that her Japanese family in California were sent to the Japanese internment camps during World War II. 

After the war, she used her art as activism by creating a book called Babies, an illustrated book featuring integrated interactions between babies of all different nationalities. This quickly became a best-seller, as did her follow-up book, Baby Animals.  


An illustration of Gyo Fujikawa pulling back a page to reveal three small children of different ethnicities


Be Yourself

It Began with a Page is about a Japanese-American woman who grew up in the early 1900s, who was unnoticed by her classmates until she moved to a place with more Japanese-Americans in California. 

Once in Japan, she decided to leave the instruction of her art teachers and pursue art her way, studying what she wanted and how. It was the decision to follow her passions that helped her determine her own artistic style.  

Be Brave

Ms Fujikawa completed and sought a publisher for her Babies book during the era of segregation. She saw a world where children of all ethnic backgrounds could exist in a culture that said they should not. And when told “no” by publishers, she continued to believe in her vision.


The easiest conversation to have was, of course, when we got to the part where she worked for Walt Disney. My sons were able to recognize how exciting that would be to work as and among the top artists in entertainment. 

We discussed the Japanese Internment Camps and how hard it must have been for Gyo to be free on one side of the country while her family were forced from their homes and into camps, away from everything and everyone they ever knew. 

This led to a discussion on how fear drives racism. It was fear that drove President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 9066, which ordered all Americans of Japanese descent into camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Military. Fear led to racist treatment of fellow Americans, which led to racist discrimination against them. 

In age-appropriate terms, my sons were able to understand that people who looked a certain way were treated differently entirely because society had told them they should be afraid. They were able to take a step back and recognize that people are people, regardless of their outward appearances, all have a right to being treated with kindness, dignity, and respect (which happen to be our three family house rules). We talked about how it is wrong to deny people their rights to live their lives in peace just because other people do not deal with their own insecurities. 

Age Level

Both my eight-year-old and my five-year-old loved this book. 

Where to Buy

You can find this book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target. 


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