Picture Book Biographies:
98 Years in 32 Pages?
III of III
“People read biography for the same reason they read fiction; not to find out, simply, what happens next, but to figure out how people live their lives, how they solve their problems,”
Marnie Jones. THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR. Winter 1984-85
Each life is story of problems to solve. How one addresses these problems, or decides if it is even a genuine problem that needs to be solved is how people live their lives. In other words, the way one interacts with the world. The actions in their lives.
Though these four picture book biographies on Georgia O’Keeffe are different in many ways, they all share the primary chords of this painter’s life. They share a focus on how she lived in the world.
* A preference for and ease with solitude
* An uncommon child with an uncommon dream (for her time)
* An individual who followed that dream throughout her 98 years
* Her love of nature, shapes, flowers, sea shells and bones
* The three primary landscapes of her life and work: Wisconsin prairie, the New York skyline, and the wide-open spaces of the southwest.
* She was dedicated to her work and that work included how she lived in the world.
* And because of that, she continued to explore
Winter’s MY NAME IS GEORGIA is the only volume that makes a reference to O’Keeffe’s relationship with Alfred Stieglitz. And that is only a single, small image of a white haired man seen through a window of O’Keeffe’s Manhattan studio. Some might say an artist’s adult relationships have no place in a picture book biography. Other might say to leave out such information is a lesser or distorted representation.
I urge you to look again. O’Keeffe’s relationship with Stieglitz was based in how she lived with the world, and that is the rich distillation these four books offer to children.
Picture Book Biographies Discussed
GEORGIA RISES: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GEORGIA O’KEEFFE by Kathryn Lasky. Illus. by Ora Eitan. Farrar, 2009.
GEORGIA’S BONES by Jen Bryant. Illus. by Bethanne Andersen. Eerdmans, 2005.
MY NAME IS GEORGIA by Jeannette Winter. Harcourt, 1998.
THROUGH GEORGIA’S EYES by Rachel Rodriguez. Illus. by Julie Paschkis. Holt, 2006.