Georgia's Bones

Georgia's Bones

5.0 1
by Jen Bryant, Bethanne Andersen

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Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, Georgia O'Keeffe began gathering all sorts of objects — sticks and stones, flowers and bones. Although she was teased for her interest in unique shapes and sizes, young Georgia declared: “Someday, I’m going to be an artist” — and that is exactly what she became.

Jen Bryant’s story of Georgia O


Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, Georgia O'Keeffe began gathering all sorts of objects — sticks and stones, flowers and bones. Although she was teased for her interest in unique shapes and sizes, young Georgia declared: “Someday, I’m going to be an artist” — and that is exactly what she became.

Jen Bryant’s story of Georgia O’Keeffe celebrates the famous artist’s fascination with natural shapes, “common objects,” and her unusual way of looking at the world. Bethanne Andersen’s fluid, graceful illustrations capture the beauty of O’Keeffe’s work and spirit.

Editorial Reviews

Gr. 2-4. Though classified as fiction, this lyrical appreciation follows the widely known arc of Georgia O'Keeffe's biography and introduces key aspects of her sensibility, including her rugged self-sufficiency and her preoccupation with "shapes and spaces." As in her novel The Trial [BKL My 1 04], which was targeted at older children, Bryant writes in spare, lyrical verse, honoring her subject's idiosyncratic impressions and precise observation of the natural world: a southwestern sun that "flung itself across the sky," clouds that seemed painted "with a milk-dipped feather." Andersen, for her part, strides bravely into O'Keeffe's considerable shadow.

Cow skulls, southwestern landscapes, and oversize flowers are present and accounted for, but the swooping brushstrokes and earthy textures are unmistakably Andersen's own. The unacknowledged mixture of history and poetic embroidery would have benefited from a clarifying endnote; Jeanette Winters' My Name Is Georgia (1998) strikes a better balance between capturing a spirit and documenting a life. Even so, this bold, beautiful rendition has a certain nonconformist flair that surely would have earned O'Keeffe's stamp of approval.

Publishers Weekly
This picture-book look at Georgia O'Keeffe imagines the seeds planted in childhood that blossomed into her career as an artist. On her family's farm in Wisconsin, young Georgia is drawn to the fleeting shapes and images that pass before her daily (As a child, shapes often drifted in and out of Georgia's mind. Curved and straight, round or square, she studied them, and let them disappear). Nature, in particular, captivates the girl, as she collects flowers, stones and other objects. Then the story abruptly shifts: When Georgia grew up, she moved to New York City and rented a studio on the top floor. Still fascinated by the world around her, she studies, then paints the tall buildings of the city, as well as seashells, the landscape of New Mexico and animal bones, which would become a signature theme in her paintings. She didn't know why [the bones] pleased her so. Perhaps it was the quiet way they did their work the years of being invisible, and then, when everything fell away, they appeared, pure and beautiful, Bryant (The Trial) speculates. The narrative serves as more of a tribute to the artist's way of envisioning the world than as a coherent story. Andersen (A Packet of Seeds) layers gouache, colored pencil and pastel to create textured, luminous sunsets and landscapes; her depictions of nature are stronger than her portraits of the artist. In both text and pictures, O'Keeffe's character remains distant and inscrutable, which may limit readers' engagement in the story. Ages 6-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Even as a child, the artist Georgia O'Keeffe was fascinated by shapes, by natural objects such as leaves and stones. In simple, poetic language Bryant sketches O'Keeffe's life, from her decision as a child to be an artist to her discovery of the Southwest, focus of so much of her art. Moving to a New York studio, the young artist studies and paints the shapes both of the city and of her collection of seashells. But it is when a friend invites her to visit New Mexico that what she sees around her really inspires her. Beyond the shapes and colors, it is the bones of animals that she encounters in the desert that she finds particularly intriguing. She ships them back to her studio to begin the work for which she is so noted. Andersen's double-page gouache, colored pencil, and pastel scenes depict the artist, the landscapes and the objects—particularly the assorted bones including the steer skull O'Keeffe immortalized in paint. There is an overarching sense of spiritual quiet to the naturalistic scenes, while the various portraits of the artist depict a sensitive young woman always observing her surroundings. Andersen adds a bit of mystery by her frequent inclusion of poppies although there is no reference to them in the text; red is the color of the end-papers as well. 2005, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Ages 6 to 9.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Bryant's lyrical text serves as a gentle introduction to a remarkable artist. The story starts with Georgia O'Keeffe's childhood and describes her preoccupation with the shapes of stones, shells, and flowers, as well as the structures ("windows and doors, dents and holes") that frame particular views. Andersen is sensitive to O'Keeffe's style and subject matter, foreshadowing some of her famous paintings in scenes throughout the book. The gouache, colored-pencil, and pastel compositions are rendered on textured paper, lending an organic feel to the natural settings, including the Wisconsin farm of O'Keeffe's childhood and her first visit to the mesas of the Southwest (at which point the narrative concludes). Skyscrapers, landforms, and skulls are painted in close-up, too large to be contained on the page, mirroring the way the painter composed. Children will relate to the young artist's desire to collect and savor treasures and may want to try looking at the world through a doughnut hole as she does. Although it does not include a biographical note or examples of her paintings, this volume is still a fine first look at O'Keeffe. Pair it with some high-quality, oversized reproductions; listeners will enjoy matching originals to inspirations.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This uninspired biography of Georgia O'Keeffe traces the evolution of part of her oeuvre. "As a child, shapes often drifted in and out of Georgia's mind," it begins. As she grows, Georgia observes woods, seashore, city, and desert for shapes to paint, and she gathers shells and bones for still-lifes. Inexplicably, Bryant never mentions her famous flower paintings, though she does appropriately emphasize her well-known paintings of bones found in the desert. Andersen uses gouache, colored pencil, and pastel to create stiff figures and cryptic backgrounds; many visual details need explaining. This art, unlike Georgia's, is lifeless and less interesting. Text about Georgia's thoughts and words are unattributed and fictionalized, as if from an earlier era of children's biography. Conspicuously missing are sources or an author's note. Not a good introduction or homage to O'Keeffe. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)

Product Details

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.32(d)
AD1020L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Jen Bryant has written numerous books for young readers,including Georgia's Bones and A River ofWords, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award.Her book A Splash of Red (Knopf)received the Schneider Family Book Award and theNCTE Orbis Pictus Award for nonfiction. She lives inPennsylvania.

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Georgia's Bones 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend 'Georgia's Bones!' It is a great tool for educators and parents interested in broadening their children's minds into the world of art. After living in New Mexico for several years, and exploring Georgia's home in Abiquiu, I thought this book was a wonderful introduction for young readers. Especially, for children who live in a place other than the southwest. The writing and images took me on a journey back to the most enchanting and magical place I've ever lived.