Author Chat: Amy Novesky on Georgia in Hawaii

Amy at the Honolulu Museum of Art

I’m thrilled and delighted to welcome award-winning author and independent children’s book editor Amy Novesky to Alphabet Soup today.

She’s here to tell us more about her latest picture book, Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012), which will be officially released next Tuesday, March 20th.

Did you know that in 1939, Georgia spent nine weeks touring the Hawaiian Islands? She was commissioned by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company “to create two paintings to promote the delights of pineapple juice.” Though she loved the time she spent in Hawaii and painted flowers, waterfalls, and feathered fish hooks, initially she refused to paint any pineapples.

She found the sharp and silvery fruit quite strange and beautiful. She wanted to live nearby so she could study it up close.

But the pineapple company would not let her . . .

Instead, they presented her with a pineapple. Georgia was disgusted. She did not want to paint the fruit now that it had been picked, and she would not let anyone tell her what to paint.

Georgia was just being herself — committed to painting what she saw, as she saw it, in her own way, so that is precisely what she did.

Amy and illustrator Yuyi Morales have done a brilliant job of presenting this little-known chapter in Georgia’s life, a rare instance in which she allowed her art to be used for commercial purposes. Despite the pineapple problem, Georgia was fascinated and intoxicated by Hawaii’s unique and varied land and seascapes — lush flora, interesting lava formations, mountains, gorges, waterfalls, beaches, caves, streams, and of course, abundance of tropical blossoms. She thrived in this natural paradise, as she explored remote areas in Hana, Maui, and strolled along the black sand beaches on the Big Island with her trained eye fixed on unspoiled vistas of singular beauty.

Amy’s lyrical, sensual text and Yuyi’s evocative acrylic paintings rendered in textured jewel tones (forest/moss greens, fuschia, aquamarine/prussian blues, fiery oranges, earthy browns) beautifully echo the iconic artist’s creative spirit gladdened by a place of pure enchantment.

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honest abe is a babe: maira kalman looks at lincoln

“History makes you hungry.” ~ Maira Kalman

In her brilliant 2009 New York Times illustrated essay, the inimitable, unfailingly hungry Maira Kalman, who looks like this,

Self portrait by Maira Kalman via WMagazine

tells about how she looked deep into Abe Lincoln’s eyes and fell head over heels.

Her witty, incisive, endearing paean to our 16th President, truly a love letter to top all love letters, made me fall even more head over heels — not only for Lincoln but for Maira.

I couldn’t stop looking at it.

After all, it included Mary Todd Lincoln’s famous White Cake, Lincoln’s favorite apples, “ornamental pyramids of nougat and caramel with fancy cream candy,” veal Malakoff, visits to the Lincoln Diner and Baked Potato King, as well as other “fancy small cakes.”

I want to be Maira when I grow up.

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tasty review: come and eat! by george ancona


“Come and Eat!”

Now, that’s music to my ears, probably yours, too. 🙂

When award-winning author, photographer and filmmaker George Ancona was growing up, his mother would always yell, “Georgie-e-e-e, come and EAT!”

While I was still in elementary school, the world opened up to me when I visited my classmates’ homes, where I tasted so many foods from faraway places. My friends also liked to come to my house after school because my mother always gave us Mexican hot chocolate with tacos.

Mmmmm! If I had lived in his neighborhood, I’d have probably gone over to George’s house every weekday afternoon. What I especially like about his new photo essay, Come and Eat! (Charlesbridge, 2011), is that he’s obviously still very curious and passionate about faraway places and views eating together as “a ceremony to celebrate life.”


Now, he’s invited all of us to a delectable multicultural feast, with food and mealtime customs from such places as Tibet, Sweden, Japan, India, Polynesia, the United States and Mexico. No matter where we live, eating together gives us the opportunity to share thoughts, feelings, and friendship. Continue reading

something to hoot about

Three Big Hoots and a Woo Hoo Hoo!!

I was thrilled to learn recently that the Scholastic 2011 Kids Are Authors Grand Prize for Nonfiction was awarded to a team of first and second graders at Lane Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia!

Yes, that’s right! The Perfect Place for an Elf Owl was chosen from thousands of entries from all over the U.S. and U.S. International Schools, and is now available for purchase through Scholastic book fairs.

Co-coordinators Libya and Nicole (back row)

Writer friend and teacher Nicole Groeneweg and art teacher Libya Doman served as Project Coordinators for this very talented group of 24 students, who, in addition to having their book published by Scholastic, received framed certificates, medals, and copies of the book. The school also received $5000 in Scholastic products which will be used in a nonfiction reading program called “Everyday Literacy.”

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