Gyo Fujikawa's “Fairy Tales and Fables”


This collection of well-known fairy tales and fables is a large picture book (approx. 12 by 9 inches) filled with illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa. Fujikawa was born in Berkeley, California, in 1908 and wrote and illustrated more than forty-five children's books. Along with book illustrations, which appear to have been her main output and legacy, Fujikawa worked on illustrations and layouts for several advertisements in a variety of industries during World War II. She is also known for creating promotional materials for “Fantasia” at Walt Disney Studios, as well as other projects for the company. 

After the success of “A Child's Garden of Verses” published by Grosset and Dunlap, she refused to accept any future projects from them without receiving royalties for her work. They agreed, and Fujikawa assumedly was able to remain financially independent her entire life, and she was never married. Two of her most popular books, “Babies” and “Baby Animals” along with many others, were an uncommon example of the inclusion of children of color in children’s book illustrations, helping to build an era in which “multicultural literature proliferated”, according to the UW Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

While “Fairy Tales and Fables” was not also written by Fujikawa, she still left her mark on it with her whimsical, detailed landscapes and warm characters. She had an eye for detail and her distinctive mixture of colored paintings mixed with texture-heavy ink drawings come together to give the book variety and shows her versatility of skill (as well as most likely a desire to make even the smaller stories engaging and illustrative for its young readers without having to include thousands of the elaborately painted pieces). This book also appears to be one of Fujikawa’s lengthier projects, with much longer stories than the sentences-to-a-page one-story-per-book examples like “Babies”. I would imagine that Fujikawa also played a part in determining the layout of the book, since several of the illustrations are engagingly dispersed among the groupings of text and dynamically positioned across pages, like the example on page 177. Although a revised edition published in 2008 is still available at many bookstores today, the cover is notably different, removing the wraparound image on the back and changing the title’s typography from what appeared to have been hand lettering to a more traditionally “fairy tale” serif script. 

Larson, Sarah. 2019. “How Gyo Fujikawa Drew Freedom in Children’s Books.” The New Yorker, June 21, 2019. to an external site..

Lotlikar, Sarina. 2020. “A New Era for Children’s Literature.” Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. April 21, 2020. to an external site..

McDowell, Edwin. 1998. “Gyo Fujikawa, 90, Creator of Children’s Books.” The New York Times, December 7, 1998, sec. Arts.