The Tree Lady
The Tree Lady is a kid-friendly biography of Katherine Olivia Sessions, the botanist who brought a lush landscape of trees to San Diego, California, and was eventually named "The Mother of Balboa Park." It is the story of a girl who followed her passion for science and the cultivation of plants at a time when girls were not encouraged or expected to do so.
The book opens with young Kate exploring the woods of Northern California, making necklaces and bracelets out of leaves and pine needles. She likes to get dirty and play in the forest, though girls are not supposed to. She loves studying science and nature in school and is the first woman to graduate from the Universtiy of California with a science degree.
She traveled to San Diego for her first teaching job and was surprised to find herself living in a desert landscape with hardly any trees. Kate left her job at the school to become a gardener and used City Park as a nursery where she could grow trees to sell and share with the town. She looked for species that could survive without much water in a hot dry place and contacted gardeners around the world for the right kind of seeds. Kate and her volunteers are responsible for planting thousands of trees for the Panama-California Exposition in what we now know as Balboa Park. So many people have now enjoyed the shade and beauty of the millions of trees and plants there that were born of her persistence.
This is an inspiring story about the immense change one person can make in innumerable lives. It steadily reinforces the idea that she simply pressed on her own unique path regardless of what others thought as she quietly pushed boundaries, and was rewarded with a fulfilling life and great success. I took my daughter to Balboa Park last week and it was a pleasure to show her that the place we have read about in her book is real and that Kate was not just a fictional character, but a real person who used dreams and hard work to make the world more beautiful. She says she wants to be a gardener when she grows up, because of reading about Kate.