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.