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How Gyo Fujikawa Drew Freedom in Children’s Books — The New Yorker

Read more at The New Yorker

— by Sarah Larson: One of the first images in “A Child’s Book of Poems,” a 1969 collection illustrated by the American artist Gyo Fujikawa, shows a boy on a hill, heading to a village under an enormous sun. This sun, unlike the real one, encourages staring: it’s layered with stunning oranges and yellows, a flourish of bright beauty filling the sky. The boy wears round sunglasses and a cap, and has a bindle slung over his shoulder—he’s contemplating the quiet harmony of the village and the celestial wonder that illuminates it. In Fujikawa’s children’s books—she illustrated fifty books, forty-five of which she wrote, and several are still in print—these elements consistently appear in harmony: the beauty and power of the natural world and the earthly pleasures of the people walking around in it. As a child, I knew that seeing her name on a book cover meant feeling connected to the page, being transported—by joy, cheerful fellow-feeling, occasional stormy moods and skies, and a hint of nursery-rhyme dreaminess. I associated her giant-sun image with the bounding pleasures of a favorite song, “Free to Be . . . You and Me.” Its opening banjo and this yellow sun both led to a land “where the children are free.” …

Image: An illustration from “Gyo Fujikawa’s A to Z Picture Book,” published in 1974. Text and illustration by Gyo Fujikawa, courtesy Sterling Publishing Co.

June 21, 2019

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