The Tree Lady

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry is a lovely new picture book biography about Kate Sessions, the woman who is considered to be the Mother of Balboa Park in San Diego.

tree-ladySan Diego, California is a favorite vacation destination for Arizonans, not only because it offers beaches, but also because of the lush vegetation. We go there to enjoy the trees and tropical look so lacking in the desert. To find out from the book that San Diego was once dry and barren was astonishing. To find out that most of the transformation was do to the efforts of one woman with a vision was mind-boggling.

H. Joseph Hopkins has chosen his subject well. Kate Sessions was an interesting woman who pushed gender boundaries as well as changed the look of a city. Gentle repetition of the phrase, “Kate did” emphasizes all the many ways she was a groundbreaker.

This video is a simple tribute to some of her accomplishments.


Edit: My San Diego friends tell me that next year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park, making this book even more appropriate.

The illustrations remind me of the illustrations in Miss Rumphius, which would be a appropriate fiction book to pair with this nonfiction biography.


Of course, The Tree Lady is perfect selection for Women’s History Month (see more fine examples at Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month). The story of Kate Session’s life will also be appropriate for Arbor Day celebrations. I am going to add it to my list of books set in California, because it covers California history.

To find out more about Kate Sessions, visit the San Diego History Center.

Age Range: 5 – 10 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 5
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 17, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442414022
ISBN-13: 978-1442414020

Disclosure: I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: