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Friday, August 31, 2012

Georgia in Hawaii, written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Harcourt Children's Books, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"In a borrowed banana wagon, she drove the tightly winding mountain roads. Georgia went where she wanted, when she wanted. And Georgia painted! Georgia painted waterfalls and green pleated mountains, lava hardened into fantastic shapes, and delicate, feathered fishhooks that she collected like seashells."

I will admit I know little about Georgia O'Keeffe. It is books like this one that send my on a search to know more. We can only hope that it does the same for our children, and for some of our students. An author's note is useful in helping readers understand the impetus for writing this part of her life's story. Two additional titles for further reading are added for those who find their interest piqued, and wanting to know more about this fine artist.

It was 1939 when the Hawaiian Pineapple Company asked Miss O'Keeffe for two paintings. Initially, she was not keen to travel so far from home. As she spent time researching Hawaii and perusing pictures from the islands, she became excited at the prospect, packed her bags and made the journey. She  was suitably impressed:

"Georgia visited the pineapple fields soon after her arrival on the island of Oahu. She found the sharp and silvery fruit quite strange and beautiful. She wanted to live nearby so she could study it up close."

The company would not allow it...only workers were allowed to live there. They gave her a picked pineapple to use as a model. The artist was disgusted and none too pleased that they would try to tell her what she would paint! She was able to spend time on each of the islands, admiring what they had to offer...each one being quite different from the others. The beauty of the islands inspired her and she created twenty paintings during her stay.

Not one pineapple in the bunch! The Pineapple Company was not impressed. Georgia O'Keeffe was none too pleased. She wanted to paint what she wanted to paint...and she would. Now, what? Was there a resolution to the impasse?

Readers will enjoy this brief look at the artist's journey to Hawaii, and be impressed with its impact on her work at the time. She draws inspiration from everything she sees on the beautiful islands and goes home with lifelong memories of the images invoked by island life. Yuyi Morales has done an incredible job of bringing the artist and her art to a young audience. She uses rich color and glowing scenes from the Hawaiian trip to show the immediate affinity the artist felt for this unfamiliar setting. The endpapers boast labeled images of nine of Hawaii's beautiful blossoms. In her illustrator's note, she says that she carefully studied O'Keeffe's artwork:

"How wonderful to imagine her fascination at looking deep into a flower, her delight in finding a rare piece of coral, and her surprise at discovering magic in a fishhook!"

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