tree lady

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Kate Sessions is the woman who made San Diego into the green city that it is today.  She was a pioneering female scientist who grew up in the forests of Northern California.  After becoming the first woman to graduate with a degree in science from the University of California, she moved to San Diego to be a teacher.  San Diego was a desert town with almost no trees at all.  So Kate decided to change all of that and began to hunt for trees that survive and thrive in a desert.  Soon trees were being planted all over San Diego, but that was not enough for Kate who then worked to fill entire parks with her trees and gardens.  Kate Sessions was a remarkable woman who helped San Diego become the great city it is today.

Hopkins takes a playful approach to this picture book biography.  From the beginning he uses a format that ends each new event in Kate Session’s life with “But Kate did.”  Not only does this create a strong structure for the story, but it shows Session’s determination to not be swayed by what others thought was possible.  From the beginning, she was a unique person with a unique vision.  It is that vision and her strength in the face of societal opposition that made her so successful.

McElmurry’s illustrations add a beauty to the book.  She captures the lush green of the California forests and then allows readers to experience the transformation of San Diego from a barren desert to the lush green of Session’s many trees.  She also shows all of the hard work that it took to make that transformation possible.

Sessions will be a newly found historical figure for most of us, and what an inspiration she is!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.