Our Winning Book Synopsis
The 2017 Giverny Award-winning book tells the true story of Katherine “Kate” Sessions, a horticulturist who transformed San Diego’s barren city park into a lush oasis filled with trees and plants.
Kate grew up in Northern California and enjoyed spending time in the woods. She studied science and was the first women to graduate in science from the University of California. When Kate moved to San Diego as a teacher, she encountered a very different environment from the redwood forests of her childhood. The land was dry and desolate, and Kate wanted to change San Diego into a town of trees and gardens. She researched the types of trees that would grow in an arid and hot climate and wrote letters to gardeners all over the world to ask for seeds. Kate then grew plants that were adapted to the dry environment of southern California and planted them all over the city. Before the Panama-California Exposition came to San Diego in 1915, Kate organized tree-planting parties for the park so that thousands of new plants and trees would provide a green oasis to visitors. It worked, and the Exposition lasted for two years instead of only one! Kate continued to share her knowledge and love of plants throughout her life and became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.
Artist Jill McElmurray’s illustrations depict a young girl’s awe and delight within the forest and showcase the transformation of San Diego through the hard work of Kate Sessions. In addition to Kate Sessions’ life story, McElmurray’s art conveys botanical adaptations and the diversity of our planet.
The Tree Lady is the first book of author H. Joseph Hopkins, who worked on the story of Kate Sessions for ten years before it was published. Hopkins felt that the story of Kate would inspire others, since Kate persevered and overcame the challenges that she encountered in life. The Giverny committee thinks that young readers (ages 4-10) will find inspiration in the story of Kate Sessions and learn valuable science content as well! We challenge you to use the story of Kate Sessions to investigate the optimal trees and plants for your local area and then develop your own local oasis!