Synopses & Reviews
Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens.
Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she'd live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.
Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.
Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old.
"A terrific jacket image shows a tiny girl in a towering forest as seen from above. Who is this girl? And why is she the tree lady? Well, turns out Katherine Olivia Sessions, who grew up in Northern California in the 1860s, always loved trees....A little-known, can-do woman shines in this handsome picture book from Hopkins and McElmurry. Hopkins ably brings a woman's passion — and some science — to a story that's accessible for young children. And, oh the pictures! Both old-timey and lush, they evoke Kate's vision perfectly, and individually labeled illustrations of trees add to the educational value. A lovely tribute to the pioneering (and environmentalist) spirit, topped off by an author's note."
"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' text presents Sessions' achievements in simple language embodying Kate's can-do spirit....McElmurry's gouache illustrations adopt a stylized, reductive approach....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."
"Echoing Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius in artistic style and theme, this picture book biography recalls the life and contributions of a horticulturist in the late 19th century. Kate Sessions populated San Diego's landscape with not lupines but trees....McElmurry's (Mad About Plaid) naïve illustrations are packed with patterns, from the dusty brown houses Sessions views as she docks in San Diego to the teardrop and polka-dot motifs in the trees. Likewise, debut author Hopkins skillfully employs a pattern in his narrative, a catchy refrain that emphasizes Sessions's can-do attitude....Vignettes that include muddy handprints, labeled plant cell parts, and trees subtitled with their Latin names complement the larger gouache spreads, and a concluding note explains more about the inspirational spirit and work of a pioneering arborist."
"A real-life Miss Rumphius, Kate Sessions was responsible for populating San Diego's Balboa Park with lush, green trees, just in time for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915....Hopkins's text succinctly captures the highlights...effectively underscoring Sessions's drive and determination. McElmurry's gouache illustrations document the gradually changing landscape from barren desert to verdant garden. One particularly effective spread not only illustrates twelve different kinds of trees Sessions brought to San Diego but also shows the far-flung places from which they were imported. This picture book biography captures the infectious passion Sessions had for her chosen vocation, but it's also a wonderful testament to urban planning and human ecology — and a great book for Arbor Day."
About the Author
H. Joseph Hopkins lives on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon. This is his first picture book.
Jill McElmurry has written and illustrated many acclaimed picture books, including Mario Makes a Move; Mad about Plaid; Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp; and the bestselling Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. She lives on a farm in New Mexico. Visit her at JillMcElmurry.com.