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Georgia in Hawaii

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased

Written by Amy Novesky and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by Harcourt in 2012, ISBN 978-0-15-205420-5
Grades 1 – 6
Book Review
Georgia painted waterfalls and green pleated mountains, lava hardened into fantastic shapes, and delicate, feathered fishhooks that she collected like seashells.” But she did not paint a pineapple. A new picture book biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Amy Novesky captures the passion, intensity and determination of the iconic American artist by focusing on a lesser-known event in her life. In February of 1939 Georgia O’Keeffe traveled to Hawaii, having been commissioned by the Dole Pineapple company to “create two paintings to promote the delights of pineapple juice.” Conflict arose when O’Keefe was told by company owners that she could not be housed next to the pineapple fields. Denied the opportunity to paint pineapples in their natural environment, the artist refused to paint one. Instead, she traveled throughout Hawaii, immersing herself in the natural wonders of the island and creating twenty paintings. Novesky’s concise, yet expressive, text evokes a vivid portrait of the artist, her strength of character, her passion for beauty, and ultimately, her rationality. Yuyi Morales’s digitally compiled acrylic paintings capture the lushness of the Hawaii and pay tribute to O’Keeffe’s artistic style. Double page spreads immerse the reader in luminous landscapes saturated with vivid color. One spread forefronts a canvas with an image of the same seashore that serves as background, while O’Keefe is pictured off to the side, gathering treasures at the shoreline. The turquoise endpapers include captioned images of the native flowers that appear in Georgia’s paintings. A powerful tribute to the artistic spirit, this title will forever change the way you view a pineapple.
Teaching Invitations
  • The Hawaii Paintings. Before and / or after reading Georgia in Hawaii use the links below to project the paintings made by Georgia O’Keeffe during this visit on a large screen. Invite your students to write in response to the images. You could leave this invitation open-ended or suggest that students write poetry, describe their response to the images, or to write down any further questions that the images prompt. You could frame the activity with a quote from Yuyi Morales who writes about illustrating Georgia in Hawaii in an Illustrator’s Note in the backmatter. “Art is a collaboration between the artisti and the viewer. What do you imagine when you look at Georgia’s paintings?”
  • Photographing / Painting Your Community. Many artists, like Georgia O’Keeffe have a deep appreciation of beauty in the natural world around them. Collaborate with the art teacher at your school and use the art of Georgia O’Keeffe as inspiration for students’ own photos or paintings of their community. Take a field trip equipped with iPad2s or digital cameras – students can take close up pictures of images that intrigue them. These pictures can serve as models for students’ paintings or stand alone as works of art
  • Painting Flowers. Invite a local florist to bring in a wide variety of flowers and to discuss where the flowers come from. Alternatively, ask each student to bring in several different flowers from house plants or from outside if the season allows. Study the flowers using magnifying glasses and discuss the names of the parts of  the flower and the roles of those parts in plant reproduction. You could extend this activity by viewing paintings of flowers in different artistic styles, from different time periods, and in still life vs. in a natural setting. Then, provide students with materials to paint close up images of a flower of their choosing.
  • Learning More About Georgia O’Keeffe. Georgia in Hawaii is one of several excellent picture book biographies about the artist. Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez, My Name is Georgia by Jeanette Winter, Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O’Keeffe by Kathryn Lasky and Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant each introduce the artists life and paintings from slightly different perspectives. While reading the titles, keep a running chart of key moments and influences in Georgia’s life. After reading two titles, begin a comparison chart that you will continue to use as you read the additional titles. Develop the categories for comparison with your students, considering aspects such as, how the author has selected and organized the content, which time frame in the artists’ life the book focuses on, and/ or how the author presents Georgia as a character (reveals aspects of her personality). During and following your reading of the books, have students share additional questions that they have about the artist’s life and work. Use the additional web and print resources below to try to find answers to their questions.
  • Museum Timeline of Georgia’s Work. Expand students’ understandings of the life of Georgia O’Keefe by reading some of the biographies on websites or in the books listed below.  Identify significant paintings from different periods in Georgia’s life (using the books, website, and google images). Collaborate with your art teacher and have students copy the O’Keeffe paintings, as art students often copy the works of the masters to learn technique. Create a museum card for each painting that notes significant events in Georgia’s life at the time that the painting was created. Display the paintings and museum cards in chronological order creating a timeline of O’Keeffe’s life and paintings. Consider having students add key historical moments in American and world history to contextualize the work.
  • Picture Book Biographies of Artists. Gather together a collection of picture book biographies of artists (see the listing in our entry on Diego Rivera: His World and Ours as a starting point). Read the books with your students and closely examine the choices that the biographers have made about text and illustration. Which aspects of their subjects’ lives have the chosen to highlight? Do they focus more on the childhood or adult life of the artist? How are the artists’ mentors, inspirations, commitments, and styles presented? When examining the illustrations, discuss how the art of the picture book biography enhances the readers’ understandings of the artists’ lives and work. You might find it particularly interesting to note how the artists works are depicted in the book. Are they reproductions of the actual works or are they illustrators’ representations?
Critical Literacy
Grades 3 – 6
  • The Art of Advertising. Georgia in Hawaii prompts consideration of the role of art in advertising. There are many different directions in which you could take this discussion. One option is to explore other instances where famous artists have produced commercial advertisements, for example, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.  Consider the issues raised in Georgia in Hawaii. What might be gained and what may be lost when an artist agrees to produce a piece of art for marketing purposes? What rights does the artist have? What rights does the company paying for the art have? Complicate this by considering whether an artist may need to sell his/ her art to play the bills. Another angle to take would be a study of graphic design in advertising. How do images help to sell products? What techniques do graphic artists use? What images do we typically see in advertisements and why? A third permutation, would be to have students photograph/paint images from your community to create a mock advertisement for something related to the community either connected with tourism or a product that is manufactured locally.

Further Explorations

Online Resources
Amy Novesky Website
An Interview with Amy Novesky by Jama Rattigan
Yuyi Morales Website
YouTube: Video Interview with Yuyi Morales
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Georgia O’Keefe Museum: Chronology
National Gallery of Art
Whitney Museum for Kids
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Art Institute of Chicago
Honolulu Museum of Art
San Francisco Chronicle: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Visit to Hawaii
Honolulu Academy of Arts: Arts of Hawaii
MFA Educators Online: Fishook From Hawaii No. 2
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Picture Book Biographies
  • Bryant, J. (2005). Georgia’s bones. Ill. by B. Andersen. Grand Rapids, MI: Eeerdman’s Books for Young Readers.
  • Lasky, K. (2009). Georgia rises: A day in the life of Georgia O’Keeffe. Ill. by O. Eitan. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
  • Rodriguez, R. (2006). Through Georgia’s Eyes. Ill. by J. Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Winter, J. (1998). My name is Georgia. San Diego, CA:  Silver Whistle / Harcourt Brace.
Series Biographies
  • Ball, J.A. & Conant, C. (1992). Georgia O’Keeffe: Painter of the desert. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press. (The Library of Famous Women series)
  • Brooks, P. (1995). Georgia O’ Keeffe: An adventurous spirit.New York: Franklin Watts. (First Books Series).
  • Turner, M. (1991). Georgia O’Keeffe. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company. (Portraits of Women Artists for Children Series).
  • Venzia, M. (1993). Georgia O’Keeffe. Danbury, CT: Children’s Press. (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Series).
Comprehensive Biographies
  • Rubin, S.J. (2010). Wideness and wonder: The life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe. New York: Chronicle Books.
About the Hawaii Trip:
  • Jennings, P. & Ausherman, M. Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii.Kihei, HI: Koa Books.
Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.


  1. Thank you! Thank you! This post was so timely; I just put the book on hold at the library.