Icons and Legends-Gyo Fujikawa

Our first Legend is Miss Gyo Fujikawa, a prolific and ground breaking author/illustrator of Children’s Books.  In her career she produced over 50 books which in turn cumulatively sold well over a million copies and continue to be in print to this day.

She was noteworthy in two distinct ways.  She was one of the first Illustrators to prominently feature multi-ethnic characters in her published work. Which was groundbreaking at the time of their publication in the 1950’s.

She was  also one of  the first Author/Illustrators to set the precedence for receiving royalties from sales of her published works rather than a flat fee.  A tradition that she helped establish and we continue to enjoy to this day.  ( I’m sure J.K. Rowling is very grateful!)

Miss Fujikawa was born in 1908 in Berkeley, California to Japanese parents. She was named after a male Chinese emperor her dad idolized.  She received a scholarship to attend Chouinard Art Institute and was on the faculty from 1933-39.

She went to work for the Walt Disney Company in California as a promotional artist where she worked on the movie Fantasia and Children’s Book adaptions of popular Disney Licenses.

She then moved to New York and worked with numerous advertising agencies where she was responsible for having created the popular Eskimo Pie character that graced the packaging of the frozen treat for years. After this she went into her career as a Children’s Book illustrator working with many major New York publishing houses and establishing herself as a Legend!


She also designed six United States postage stamps, including the 32-cent yellow rose self-adhesive stamp issued last year and the United States-Japan Treaty centenary stamp of 1960.

She lived to be 90 years old before passing away on Nov.26, 1998.

  For more information On Miss Fujiakwa as well as a complete list of her published titles you can visit her wiki page.


  1. Juliana

    Beautiful colors and work. congratulations!

  2. Lori Dean Dyment

    Fantastic work! I remember all of this from my childhood. Very inspiring.

    • WilsonWJr

      Isn’t her work gorgeous, Lori! So glad you enjoy it and the article! We’ll be doing more homage for many of these legends who paved the way for today’s Illustrators! Come back soon!

  3. Mark Mitchell

    Really, really enjoyable post! Her work is so fine, so completely satisfying. I do remember the Eskimo Pie Kid!
    Thank you so much for posting this, Wilson.

    • WilsonWJr

      You’re welcome Mark. I decided to do these posts because I wanted to force myself to become more educated abut the history of our industry. I think it’s important that as artists we are well versed in our craft! If you have any books about or artists that you would recommend for inclusion.

  4. Kendra Shedenhelm

    I must have read Gyo Fujikawa’s ‘Oh What A Busy Day!’ at least a thousand times when I was little. It was hands down my favorite book. Every time I looked at it, I saw something new in her illustrations — I just loved it!
    This reminder of her is a great way to start my day. Thank you!

  5. Laura Anne Miller

    Thanks, Wilson for this series. I recognized her artwork, but did not know anything about her-nice to fill in the blanks. Also nice to discover your site, too. Found it via Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Splashes illustration course. Have bookmarked your blog!

    • WilsonWJr

      Not a problem Laura. Children’s book artwork has a rich history worth paying homage too. A lot of creator’s have contributed to the visuals of our childhoods that inspired us to draw ourselves. I just want to give a bit more insight to some of the trailblazers! Come back often and thank Mark for me!! I’ll send him a note on Facebook!! 😉


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