When I visited Books of Wonder for the Medal Winners' book signing at the end of March, I happened to meet a most interesting fellow as I was standing in line with my books. As we talked for the half-hour or so that we were in line, I discovered that he was also a children's book author, and he too had the fortune of being in NYC at the right time to catch this event. After my books were signed, I found his book, The Tree Lady, in the store and decided to add it to my already enormous pile of purchases.
The Tree Lady is the story of Kate Sessions, who in the late 1800s became the first person to graduate from the University of California with a science degree--a woman, no less! Following graduation, she became a teacher in southern California and was stunned by the lack of trees and greenery in the landscape. She resolved to bring trees to the San Diego area, even though the locals though this would be an impossibility. She left teaching, became a gardener, researching trees through letters all over the world requesting seeds that she might try to grow in a sunny, dry climate. Eventually, her trees were growing all over San Diego, particularly in City Park (later named Balboa Park) which was soon to house a great fair. When the fair opened, the people who attended were grateful to Kate for the shady trees that kept them cool. Kate Sessions continued gardening and planting trees in San Diego until her death at age 82.
The Tree Lady does an excellent job of telling the history of Kate Sessions while keeping the information fresh and accessible. This book is a perfect first biography for the early elementary age. And upper elementary schoolers will find additional information including names for many of the trees featured and microscopic illustration of the tree parts. In addition to the strictly scientific benefit, The Tree Lady depicts a positive representation of community involvement, gender assumption, societal expectation, and personal confidence. The illustrations are dynamic and beautiful. After the pages of dusty brown desert, I could practically breathe the cool, green of the trees in the final pages.
You can find The Tree Lady in both the Picture Books--Nonfiction section and the Picture Books--Books with Strong Females section of The Book Children Store.