Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins


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

by H. Joseph Hopkins ; illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4424-1402-0
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Hopkins respectfully profiles Kate Sessions, a pioneering horticulturalist who helped transform San Diego’s City Park from a barren waste into today’s lush, tree-filled Balboa Park.

Hopkins traces the effects of Kate’s childhood affinity for science and fascination with trees. Roaming the Northern California woods as a child and becoming the first woman to earn a science degree from the University of California in 1881, Kate turned her passion into work that transformed a community. After a brief teaching stint in San Diego, she became a gardener and worked out a nifty deal with the city: In exchange for leasing acreage for a plant nursery within City Park, she promised to plant 100 trees a year in the park and deliver additional hundreds for planting citywide. Sessions sourced seeds from species grown globally and coordinated tree-planting parties to beautify Balboa Park in time for the city’s 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Hopkins’ text presents Sessions’ achievements in simple language embodying Kate’s can-do spirit. “Most San Diegans didn’t think trees could ever grow there. But Kate did.” McElmurry’s gouache illustrations adopt a stylized, reductive approach. Foliage is rendered as green globes decorated with leaf forms; the bark of palms sports simple crosshatching. The artist nicely conveys Kate’s life arc, from child among sequoias to elder on a tree-lined park path.

An appealing treatment of an accomplished woman’s life. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)