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The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,696 ratings  ·  372 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
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Beach Lane Books
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Start your review of The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
Two of my favorite things-- trees and books about the remarkable achievements of ordinary people-- come together in this beautiful picture book biography about Kate Sessions, who transformed San Diego by cultivating and planting thousands of trees and plants.
An engaging and glowing biography of a very courageous, intelligent and insightful woman. Definitely one to add to your "girl power" shelf ;-) I think it would also be of special interest to those who love trees and gardens, as well as to Californians or anyone who has visited San Diego.

I really wanted to know more about how the trees she brought in affected the native plants and animals. While certainly her work is admirable in one regard, I always feel concern about the native species that ar
I just realized I never wrote up this book. I was impressed enough that I purchased copies for every branch. This lady, Kate Sessions, is the one who made the most famous park containing world renowned institutions in San Diego by designing an exquisite park: Balboa Park, containing the San Diego Zoo and other famous museums. She also made San Diego a City of trees. This legacy is now being continued in San Diego by TreeSD who plans to make an "Urban Canopy" covering the City of San Diego. Ultim ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
I didn't like the book's constant hammering of the theme of the lone rebel. Everything gets put into that context, even when not appropriate: "Kate missed studying science and was not sure she would stay on the job. But for two years, she did." So, actually she didn't stay on the job (and in truth, she was only there from January 1884 to June 1885). No mention (not even in the author's note) is made of colleagues such as Alfred D. Robinson, co-founder and first president of the San Diego Floral ...more
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: THE TREE LADY: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW ONE TREE-LOVING WOMAN CHANGED A CITY FOREVER by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry, ill., Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster, September 2013, 32p., ISBN: 978-1-4424-1402-0

"She loved the way they reached toward the sky and how their branches stretched wide to catch the light. Trees seemed to Kate like giant umbrellas that sheltered her and the animals, birds, and plants that lived in the forest.
"Not everyone feels at home in the woods.
"But Kate
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kate Sessions is the woman who made San Diego into the green city that it is today. She was a pioneering female scientist who grew up in the forests of Northern California. After becoming the first woman to graduate with a degree in science from the University of California, she moved to San Diego to be a teacher. San Diego was a desert town with almost no trees at all. So Kate decided to change all of that and began to hunt for trees that survive and thrive in a desert. Soon trees were being pl ...more
This biography is about an amazing and less familiar botanist/horticulturist named Katie Sessions who not only achieved a college education from Berkeley in 1881 but eventually founded Balboa Park in San Diego, CA.
Mary Lee
Gorgeous illustrations. Gorgeous writing.

If you're using Notice and Note, this has a great example of Again and Again.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
1. I would pair this book with the twin text "The Great Paper Caper" by Oliver Jeffers, copyright 2008.
2. This is a great book to go along with the true story of a woman who helped to beautify San Diego by planting many trees (in fact, most of their trees). In this story, trees have started disappearing and so the characters in the story are determined to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Both stories show that there is a central theme of trees being important to lives of both people and
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Children's Stories About Making Cities More Green
The role of Katherine Olivia Sessions in promoting a greener, more tree-centered park and city in San Diego is explored in this engaging picture-book biography of the late 19th and early 20th-century horticulturist. Nicknamed the 'Mother of Balboa Park,' Kate was the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science. A life-long tree-lover, Kate was raised in northern California, where arboreal life was plentiful. When she moved to San Diego to teach, after gradu ...more
Sarah Wheeland
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Tree Lady

(2013, October 1). School Library Journal.

Text Structure: Chronological Sequence

Fiction Twin Text: “A Tree for Emmy” by Mary Ann Rodman (2009)

Rationale: “The Tree Lady” chronicles the life of Katherine Olivia Sessions who loved trees and planted incredible gardens throughout San Diego. “A Tree for Emmy” who wants a tree more than anything for her birthday. The two stories nicely parallel each other in that the main characters are both passion
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a wonderful biography of Katherine Olivia Sessions, who is called the Mother of Balboa Park in San Diego. The story explains about Kate's passion for the sciences and her groundbreaking accomplishments.

I love that she was never content to listen to what others told her she could or could not do, but followed her own ideas and passions and really did what she thought was best. We were amazed by the transformation of that dusty, desert town and although I don't think I've ever been to Bal
Leslie Lindsay
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full-disclosure: I bought this book mostly because *I* love children's picture books...and the main charcter, Kate Sessions happens to share her name with *my* daughter who is also a tree-loving little girl, although my hubby so kindly pointed out, she may be outgrowing picture books.

I disagree. Anyone and everyone can love picture books; they are truly a wonderful foray into the world of literature.

And so my love for children's literature never dies. And neither does San Francisco, which was
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
The tree lady left an impression on me. Yes...Katy did. Students will be exposed to many different things in this book....not just trees and how to grow them in desert climates. Students will learn the character traits of perseverance, tenacity, pursuing a dream, engaging other people to follow that dream with you. Students will also understand that sometimes you have to do something you aren't very interested in (in Katie's case- teaching, before you can pursue your dream. Illustrations are bea ...more
Carrie Gelson
I will admit that I bought this book because I have been in awe of its gorgeous cover and I knew it was about an inspirational woman who transformed an entire city. Love it for its passionate celebration of nature. For its gorgeous illustrations. Or for its important historical journey back in time beginning in the 1860s with a little girl named Katherine Olivia Sessions. A little girl who brought lush, green life to the city of San Diego. A woman who studied science when other women and girls d ...more
Tricia Douglas
A beautiful book. This book was given an award from the "Friends of Children and Literature" (FOCAL) by the Los Angeles Public Library Children's Literature Department. It tells the story of how Kate Sessions designed and planted the trees for Balboa Park in San Diego. It was very informative even to me who just thought the park "appeared" one day! Anyone who visits San Diego always goes to the famous zoo and Balboa Park. They're wonderful places and gorgeous with all the plants and flowers. Now ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm a tree-hugger, in the most literal sense. I love the often-overlooked, old-fashioned holiday of Arbor Day (yearly on the last Friday in April). This book makes me yearn to plant trees every day of the year. The Tree Lady is a biographical account for children, about the life of Kate Sessions, "The Mother of Balboa Park," in San Diego. Much more than that, it's a lovely and inspiring non-fiction children's book, that reads like a story. A story of hope, nature, trees, and a very determined la ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing woman Katherine Olivia Sessions was. I've never been to San Diego nor had I ever herd of Sessions before being encouraged to read this story. I've now added to my "Must Do in the Next Two Years" list a visit to San Diego so I can visit and see for myself the beauty that Sessions built from her heart, with her hands and the love of trees. This book was beautifully written and very inspiring. This would be a great read for females especially because it teaches us that it's okay not ...more
Threading the repeated phrase "But Kate did" (unpaged) throughout the narrative, this picture book biography provides ready evidence of what one person can do to change the world. Kate Sessions grew up during the 1860s when females weren't supposed to get their hands dirty or study science. She rebelled against societal expectations, graduated with a science degree, and began teaching in San Diego where there very few trees. She became a gardener and changed the appearance of the city, searching ...more
A lovely story. A feminist story of a woman in science -- the first woman to graduate from the U of California with a degree in science (1881). Of a nature advocate, gardener, person who changed the world. The text is carefully chosen, with effective echoes of "but she did/but Kate did."

McElmurray's pictures remind me of Barbara Cooney's work. Love the hand prints in the beginning ("girls from Kate's side of town weren't fupposed to get their hands dirty. / But Kate did."
Notes: Kate Simmons biography. She loved trees as a child, studied plants and trees in college in the 1880s and was really surprised by how few trees there were in San Diego's city park. She left teaching to become a gardener and worked with the city to plant one hundred trees. Her hard work is still enjoyed by millions who visit San Diego's Balboa Park. ...more
Kate Session, inspired by her love of science and trees, started San Diego's beautiful tree-filled parks. This simply told story is ideal for students in grades 1 -2 and this book could be used for Earth Day, Arbor Day, as part of a biography unit, or any other nature themed lesson. I loved the pictures, the repetition of 'But Kate did' in the story and the inspiring message. ...more
Lauren Salerno
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous illustrations. More of a biography about Kate Sessions. She was the first woman to graduate from the UC system. Also, the reason why San Diego is so gorgeous. She found drought-tolerant trees and planted them in Balboa Park.

Keywords: trees, planting, Women's History Month, California history, San Diego history, Can-do spirit
Jenene Meyer
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’m constantly in search of picture books with a historical background. This one did not disappoint.
I had never heard this story before and couldn’t wait to introduce my 4th grade class to such a brave, innovative and smart woman!
Books about women in science and nature are so needed in our world today. I used this book for a whole week for literacy lessons and my class thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next time I travel to San Diego I will surely look at the trees and land around me much differently. Gre
Joseph Marchiori
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
In the book the Tree Lady you discover the real inspiring story of Kate Sessions, a green-thumbed pioneer and activist who helped San Diego develop from a dry desert city into a lush, leafy city known for its beautiful parks and gardens. This story is very inspirational as it takes place in times where women weren't supposed to get their hands dirty and she did the opposite and saved San Diego. She made it a very beautiful and lush place. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in natur ...more
Amy Rae
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty illustrations and an interesting bit of local-to-San-Diego history about a woman who brought trees to the city. Really interesting, though I found myself vaguely worried that they might end up with an invasive species problem, lol. I would have liked a little more back matter clearing that aspect of the story up a little.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully illustrated telling of how Kate Sessions came to be the woman behind San Diego's City Park treescapes. From childhood aspirations and love of nature to her tenacious actions to preserve and showcase it. A woman after my own heart! Delightful for all ages. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I hope I can do as she did.
Great illustration work
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