The Tree Lady

Published by Beach Lane Books.

2017 Giverny Award Winner for Best Children's Science Picture Book

A Junior Library Guild Selection

2014 Beatty Award, California Library Association

2014 Marion Vannett Ridgway Award for Debut Authors

2014 FOCAL Award for Significant California Content, Los Angeles Public Library

2014 Oregon Spirit Non-Fiction Honor Book, Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE)

2014 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, picture book category, Santa Monica Public Library

2013 Original Art Selection, New York Society of Illustrators

2013 Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth (Science & Health and Crafts & Gardening)

2014 Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth, Sustainability

2014 Irma Black Award Semi-Finalist

2014 Amelia Bloomer Project List, (Early Readers Nonfiction)

New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

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 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.
— Booklist (starred review)

McElmurry's artwork undergirds Hopkins's writing with stylized beauty and a sense of joy. This is a wonderful tribute to a true champion of nature.
— School Library Journal (starred review)

Even children who find the details of Sessions' life difficult to absorb are likely to be enchanted by the book's appearance. McElmurry's paintings combine stylized design elements with naturalistic details. Porcelain-doll-like girls and boys, in frilly white dresses and short trousers respectively, have character and attitude. In one illustration, McElmurry shows rows of students (the rows stacked liked layer cakes) at their desks, each one with an identical plant specimen. But the children are doing things individually: whispering to neighbors, daydreaming, raising a hand, and in one case, napping. Likewise, the plants and trees are detailed and distinct but also simplified enough that their basic structures can be easily understood.
— New York Times

Buy this book. See inside.

© 2017 Jill McElmurry