Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Review: Georgia's Bones

Written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Bethanne Anderson, Georgia's Bones focuses on one aspect of Georgia O'Keefe's development as an artist. The story begins with Georgia's fascination with "common things" as a young girl growing up on her family's farm in Wisconsin. Even as a very young girl, O'Keefe was drawn to simple shapes and forms she found in nature. Leaves, acorns, bones, feathers, rocks - anything that had form and shape. She was also drawn to the open space of outdoors which was appropriate for the daughter of farmers, but her family must have been mystified as to where O'Keefe's determination to become an artist came from.

This story is told in three basic vignettes: Georgia as a young girl on the farm; her move to New York City to become an artist; and an eventful visit to a friend in New Mexico that changed her art and her life forever. Bryant's prose is succinct but purposeful in sharing a moment or perspective in O'Keefe's life and then moving the story forward. But the highlight of the book is Andersen's illustrations that beautifully evoke the world that Georgia O'Keefe made for herself. Andersen captures the vastness of the New Mexico landscape and the simple purity of the stripped-away bones that O'Keefe found there.

Although this book does not address the uniqueness of Georgia O'Keefe's artistic vision, the strength and starkness of what she painted certainly implies it. Because the story focuses on a slice of O'Keefe's artistic development, it would be difficult to get a sense of what a transformative artist she became from this book alone. If this book were shared with children in a larger context of O'Keefe's life or within a unit of study of American artists, it would have greater resonance. Even as a stand-alone, however, it portrays Georgia O'Keefe's artistry in such a way as to invite further investigation.

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