The Tree Lady

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The Tree Lady – The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry



Kate Sessions grew up in the woods of Northern California in the 1860’s.  Kate loved exploring the woods and didn’t mind getting dirty while playing.  In the 1860’s girls were not encouraged to study science.  But, Kate wanted to learn.



“Kate felt the trees were her friends.  She loved the way they reached toward the sky and how their branches stretched wide to catch the light.”

In 1881, Kate graduated from the University of California – the first woman to earn a degree in science from that university.  She took a teaching job in San Diego after graduation and found that town to be a desert-like place with very few trees.

After two years, Kate left teaching and worked to find trees that would grow in the dry soil.  She requested seeds from gardeners all over the world, and went to Mexico to hunt for trees that might thrive in San Diego.

Before long, Kate had a tree nursery – and her trees were planted all over town.  In 1909, the city officials announced the Panama-California Exposition would come to San Diego in 1915.  In preparation for this, they wanted more trees for the city park, Balboa Park.  Kate felt Balboa Park needed thousands more trees.  She invited friends to help and held tree-planting parties.

When the Exposition opened in 1915, Balboa Park had millions of trees and plants.  Visitors marveled at the wonderful plants and gardens and strolled in the cool shade.  Kate was given many awards over her lifetime, and continued working with and planting trees until her death in 1940.

“Back then, few could have imagined that San Diego would become the lush, leafy city it is today.  But all along, year after year, Katherine Olivia Sessions did.”

This is wonderful picture book about a woman who changed a desert town into a city filled with plants and trees – with the act of planting trees.  She was called “The Mother of Balboa Park.”  Kate Sessions used her courage, her love of trees, and her scientific knowledge to do this.  The author included a page with more detailed information about Kate Sessions.  A good book to share!

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13 thoughts on “The Tree Lady

  1. We loved this book.. it was a great read, the art is awesome and so is Kate’s story. I am definitely getting the book back for a re-read. Thanks for sharing this review on Kidlit Bloghop this week.
    -Reshama @ Stackingbooks

    • Hooray for girls looking under rocks, planting seeds, and loving science. I hope you enjoy reading the story! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Loved reading your review of The Tree Lady. I live in San Diego, but didn’t grow up here so learning about the history is always fun. I’ve taken my kids to Balboa Park and we have seen first hand the beauty Kate Session created there so many years ago. Thanks for sharing!

    • How fun that you’ve actually been to Balboa Park! I’d like to see the place Kate Sessions created. Thanks for stopping by!

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