It Began With a Page

How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

We are building a library because we love books and we love to read so much. While this space will most often feature stories and discoveries we make in the process of building our library, I will occasionally write about a book that I love too much not to share with you.

Here is a book I recently found and I LOVE it.

This elegant picture book would make a lovely gift for any child or adult (picture books are not just for children; I will write more about this idea in a future post). It is the perfect book for anyone who you think would be interested in a moving story (written by Kyo Maclear), beautiful illustrations (by Julie Morstad), and learning about another brave woman who changed history.

A biographical picture book, it includes moving moments in the life of Gyo Fujikawa, a groundbreaking Japanese American hero who spoke up for racial diversity in picture books.

Growing up in California, Gyo Fujikawa always knew that she wanted to be an artist. She was raised among strong women, including her mother and teachers, who encouraged her to fight for what she believed in. During World War II, Gyo’s Japanese-American family was forced to abandon their home and belongings and imprisoned in an internment camp in Arkansas.

In the meantime, Gyo was living in New York working as an illustrator. This was such a difficult time for Gyo. Seeing the diversity around her and feeling pangs from her own childhood, Gyo became determined to show all types of children in the pages of her books. There had to be a world where every child saw themselves represented. Her book Babies, initially rejected, was published in 1963 and stands as a landmark: it was the first children’s book to depict infants of different races and nations sharing growing experiences. Two million copies were sold. Fujikawa’s books have been translated into 17 languages and are read in more than 22 countries.

This exquisite book includes additional information on Gyo Fujikawa, a bibliography, a note from the creators, a timeline, and archival photos.

It Began With a Page is written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Halloween Book Treats

Sharing our love of books is fun

For the second year in a row, we set up our Halloween book give-away and it was exhilarating to see how enthusiastic and appreciative everyone, both children and adults, was when they saw the boxes organized by picture books, middle grade books, young adult, and books for parents. We start collecting books in the summer, purchasing many from book shops in public libraries. One friend loves this idea so much she’s give us three boxes of books both years.

Bill sets up the books. Natalie makes the signs. From our front porch, we could see so many children and adults taking their time choosing a book.

About 500 books went home tonight to new homes. Here are a few fun things we overheard:

“This is so amazing”
“This is so dope!”
“I’m so excited to read this”
“My friend said this is a good author”

And from one mom: “This is my new favorite house.” 🙂

A Tiny Good Thing

Isabelle Nagel-Brice

We have been thinking about, researching, and planning our library project off and on for a dozen years. One good thing about things taking longer than you expect is that it allows for more learning. I will be sharing on this website not only the building of our downstairs garage/upstairs library+studio, but also the amazing things we’ve learned about healthy building materials. One person who has been an inspiration to me is Isabelle Nagel-Brice of “A Tiny Good Thing.” I learned about Isabelle because I’ve been enamored by tiny houses ever since we built our little 10’ x 7’ tiny schoolhouse in our back garden. When I visited Isabel’s website the first time, I was smitten. I read every single article and post she had written.

Isabelle’s tiny house

I watched the video tour of her tiny house. I revisited her website again and again. And then…we met Isabelle and decided to have her be our consultant for healthy building materials on the library project. I’ll be writing more about Isabelle’s building knowledge and tiny house expertise in future posts. For now, let me introduce Isabelle Nagel-Brice, someone who has inspired us to take healthy building a few steps further than we had imagined. She is the person who suggested we recycle the wood from the old garage and turn it into the hardwood floor for the upstairs library. We are so happy she suggested it.

Visit A Tiny Good Thing to learn more about Isabelle and her inspiring work.

The Little Free Library

This is our Little Free Library. It is such an active library that Bill, who is our official curator, must check it every other day to make sure it is full, but not too full (so that it is easy to peruse the books). This picture I took today makes me think it’s a bit too full. We have even received thank you notes like this one, tucked inside where we can easily find it. We try to make sure to include a few children’s books, as we see children walk by and get so excited. Little did we realize how much we would enjoy sharing our love of books with our neighbors, who deposit books regularly. It’s become their Little Free Library, as much as it is ours.

Building a Library

Our family is a trio of book-lovers. We love reading all types of stories—both fiction and non-fiction. We get excited about researching subjects we know nothing about, learning new details about subjects we know more about, and sharing what we learn around our dinner table. A dozen years ago, Bill, Natalie and I started fantasizing about building a small library atop our garage. That fantasy is becoming a reality. As I type these words, I hear the builders arriving and beginning work. Our 1947 garage is in the process of being rebuilt, with a library on the second floor. And guess what? The wood from the old garage will become the library’s hardwood floor. I will be sharing with you the best things I learn while the building process goes on for six months. One exciting part of this project is that I found a wonderful advisor in the tiny house world, who has become an expert in healthy and environmentally friendly building techniques.