Drew the Way
Harper Collins Publishers
C haracter: Gyo Fujikawa
"From the time she was a little girl, Gyo Fujikawa drew pictures.
Gyo's parents had come to California from Japan looking for a better life, but sometimes Gyo felt invisible. When high school came, Gyo's teachers recognized her gift for creating beautiful art and got behind her. Art became her profession, and now her drawings were in magazines and store window displays.
Eventually, Gyo was asked to illustrate picture books for children. She envisioned a diverse cast of characters, explaining that she wanted 'an international set of babies...' in the pages of books.
Had it ever been done before?
Her Babies, published in 1963, welcomed children of all colors into the pages of a picture book for the first time, paving the way for publishers, teachers, readers, and future writers to imagine a more inclusive world...
"Babies! Chubby-cheeked, squat-legged, bouncy-bottomed babies. Naughty-nice, oh-so-busy, toddle-crawling babies.
But the publisher said no.
No to mixing white babies and black babies. It was not done in early 1960s America, a country with laws that separated people by skin color.
But Gyo would not budge.
She closed her eyes and remembered all the times she had felt unseen and unwelcome.
She looked the publisher in the eye and said, 'It shouldn't be that way. Not out there in the streets. Not here on this page. We need to break the rules."
And something more: "A note from the author and illustrator" explains that "Gyo inherited a passion for social justice and labor rights from her poet mother, Yu. For example, she would not work for publishers that didn't pay their artists a fair living wage. She was also one of the fist children's book artists to ask for royalties. She encouraged other artists to do the same. 'Let's not follow the old rules,' she said. 'Let's make new ones.'"