Ode to a Children’s Author of Diversity and Fun

Oh, Gyo Fujikawa, how I adored your books as a child, and how I continue to adore them as a big kid. How they drew me into a world where friends and fun always awaited me. Gyo Fujikawa, you depicted the bumps and bruises of a busy day, as well as its joys and possibilities…Oh Gyo Fujikawa, perhaps we got to be friends through your books. Like a great friend, you introduced me to so many possibilities.

Ode to Children's Books Author and Illustrator Gyo Fujikawa

Little did I know until recently that Gyo was a woman. Yep, she has her own profile on Wikipedia and it has a great bunch of references, which is what draws me to that sometimes dismissed site. Gyo Fujikawa is described as one of the first illustrators to depict characters of various ethnicities in children’s books. (Some say the first, but I’ve read picture books with diversity that were published earlier. Gyo Fujikawa was certainly the first to make diverse ethnicities more commonplace.) As a child, I didn’t know any of this—I simply enjoyed books by “that hard to say name” author and illustrator.

Recently, I finally learned how to pronounce her name correctly and easily, GHEE-oh, (like the Indian butter, and then, OH!) with the last name like the apple and “ka-wa”. No more stumbling, hemming and hawing when I request her once hard-to-find books at the local bookstore. (It seems they’ve made a comeback. I used to have to special-order them, and now I sometimes find them on bookstore shelves, particularly the Baby-Shower-Friendly gift Babies.) Gyo Fujikawa’s books are even on the shelves in the wonderful Children’s Room at the Bismarck Public Library.

Grandma M and M read Gyo Fujikawa books on the porch in Fargo, ND.

My tattered childhood copy of Oh, What A Busy Day! leans prominently against a book shelf in my 16-month-old daughter’s nursery. By turning its pages, perhaps she too will someday discover a world that awaits her questions, curiosity and energy. Like the wondrous book, full of life, did for me may it inspire her to explore a world of friends of all temperaments, talents and colors. Thank you, Gyo Fujikawa!

A couple months ago, I posted about Gyo Fujikawa on my Facebook page. My former colleague in the social services reminded me of her childhood favorite, Baby Animals. This has me wondering now, what Gyo Fujikawa books are YOUR favorites?

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