Review: Georgia in Hawaii by Amy Novesky

georgia in hawaii

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

In 1939, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company commissioned two painting by Georgia O’Keeffe.  This picture book is the story of her trip to Hawaii funded by the company.  O’Keeffe spent time on each of the Hawaiian islands.  Her first stop was Oahu where she saw pineapples in the fields.  She wanted to spend time close to the plants as they grew, but the company did not approve.  They gave her a pineapple that had been picked, but that was not the same for O’Keeffe.  She next went to Maui where she spent time near a rainforest and waterfalls.  She painted what she wanted, when she wanted.  On the island of Hawaii, she saw volcanoes, rare red coral and lots of flowers. Finally, she went to Kauai and visited with the local artists as the air was filled with the scent of burning sugar.  But when she returned to the mainland, she didn’t have a single picture of a pineapple.  The company was upset, and so was O’Keeffe, who hated being told what to paint.  So how could they resolve this?

Novesky brings the Hawaiian island to lush life in this picture book.  Her words tell of the beauty and diversity of the islands.  They also show how the islands impacted the work of Georgia O’Keeffe.  The story is told on a level that children will enjoy, giving examples of what inspired O’Keefe to paint and what did not.  It is a strong story about how creativity and inspiration work.

Morales’ art is so lovely.  As she says in her illustrator’s note at the end of the book, she took inspiration for the illustrations not only from the twenty paintings that O’Keeffe created in Hawaii, but also from works throughout O’Keeffe’s lifetime.  The illustrations have something that I can’t put into words.  It’s a kinship or a closeness with the original work. 

This is a gorgeous and striking picture book about a dynamic, one-of-a-kind artist.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.