The Tree Lady — Arbor Day, April 25

The Tree Lady9781442414020_p0_v4_s260x420The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

H. Joseph Hopkins, Author

Jill McElmurry, Illustrator

Beach Lane Books, Biography, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Kate Olivia Sessions, Horticulturists, Trees, San Diego, Nature

Opening: “Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in the woods of Northern California. She gathered leaves from oaks and elms. She collected needles from pines and redwoods. And she braided them together with flowers to make necklaces and bracelets.”

Book Synopsis: Trees were Kate Sessions’ best friends.  She spent a lot of time in the woods in the 1860s. Her passion for the natural world led her to study science in college at the University of California.  She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in 1881. Her first teaching job took her to San Diego in 1883. You can imagine her shock when she arrived in this desert town. Most San Diegans didn’t think trees could grow, but Kate did.  She left her teaching job and began to research trees that could grow in a hot and dry desert. This young woman began to collect seeds of trees that would grow in San Diego from all over the world.  She began to garden and plant trees. Soon people began to buy trees from Kate’s nursery and planted them in their yards and around the city. In 1909 the city leaders announced that a great fair was coming to San Diego’s Balboa Park in 1915. The entire town volunteered to plant trees — millions to be exact. Kate became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.

Why I like this book:  This is a perfect book Arbor Day book.  H. Joseph Hopkins has written a story that portrays Kate as gutsy and passionate conservationist who literally transformed a desert town into the beautiful, lush green city it is today. More importantly his story teaches kids that if you have vision, determination, perseverance, you can make a difference in the world. That’s what Kate did. This is a wonderful classroom book and can be used in many different ways.  Jill McElmurry’s beautiful illustrations match the era and will certainly appeal to children.

Resources: There is a more detailed Author’s Note at the end of the book that gives the reader a lot more information about Kate Session and the celebrated work she did during her lifetime.  With Arbor Day and Earth Day close together, it is a great time to plant trees in areas in need of greenery.  This is a great project for kids to do through school, scouting programs and with families. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation for ways to get involved at home and in your community.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

38 thoughts on “The Tree Lady — Arbor Day, April 25

    • I am so glad you know Balboa Park and have read the book. I didn’t know San Diego was a desert town in 1883. It has become such a green city. Made me think of the Mangrove Trees and the trees planted in the desert in Africa that brought water and food to a dying community. That work is being done all over the world in desert areas. And thank you for sharing my review on your site.


  1. What a great picture book Patricia! I didn’t know about it nor did I know about Arbor Day. In Italy the 25th April we celebrate the end of Fascism and of Second World War; we call it “Liberazione”.


    • Now, I didn’t know that there was a celebration for the end of Fascism and WW II. I learned something. This is an important book for kids to know about, along with the Mangrove Tree, where they are planting specific trees in desert areas of Africa and all over the world to help communities thrive.


    • Yeah, it wasn’t a priority for me (I don’t like th seiemic activity there), but I wouldn’t mind visiting just to see Balboa Gardens and what the city looks like a centry later.


  2. Thank you for sharing about this book, Pat. I’m glad to know of it. The cover does a great job evoking the feelings of peace that being with trees can bring. I love your point that it shows how a person can make a difference in the world.


    • I believe that is a message we need to communicate loud and clear to children today because of what is happening in the world. There are so many kids doing wonderful work and we need to support them because it is their future.

      Seeing you reminded me I need to order a copy of MY AMAZING DAY for a great grandchild that is due in July. Have given it as a gift to several new mothers.:)


    • I agree. San Diego is the lush and beautiful city today because of Kate’s vision and determination. I like the theme of how a woman went against all odds a century ago, and accomplished the unbelievable.


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