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The Tree Lady


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About the Author

H. Joseph Hopkins lives on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon. This is his first picture book.

Jill McElmurry has written and illustrated many acclaimed picture books, including Mario Makes a Move; Mad about Plaid; Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp; and the bestselling Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. She lives on a farm in New Mexico. Visit her at


* "A terrific jacket image shows a tiny girl in a towering forest as seen from above. Who is this girl? And why is she the tree lady? Well, turns out Katherine Olivia Sessions, who grew up in Northern California in the 1860s, always loved trees.... 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, June 1, 2013, *STARRED REVIEW"
* Katherine Olivia Sessions was a real go-getter, becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a science degree (1881) and transforming San Diego's City Park from a dry, ugly hillside into a lush garden flourishing beneath a beautiful canopy of trees.... Hopkins writes in a light narrative style that makes this picture-book biography a great selection for a storytime with a nature-based theme, but it also contains good information for early report writers. The author utilizes variations of a positive, upbeat refrain-"but she did"-that kids will enjoy repeating. 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, November 2013, *STARRED REVIEW"
"For slightly older readers ready for a little history, Hopkins describes the magic wrought by the Tree Lady, a real Victorian-era woman named Kate Sessions, who transformed San Diego's arid Balboa Park into a lush, tree-filled garden.... Hopkins includes a lot of facts in the story, but his clever repetition of the phrase "But Kate did" each time her success confound expectations adds rhythm and a predictable structure.

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...the plants and trees are detailed and distinct but also simplified enough that their basic structures can be easily understood. "The Tree Lady" has an obvious companion in "Miss Rumphius".... In their own way, these true stories of unconventional American lives fulfill their heroines' ambitions of making the world a more beautiful place--and plant the seeds of future beauty in the minds of their readers."-- "The New York Times, September 11, 2013"

A very useful read-aloud for a science lesson in ecology and conservation.... The Tree Lady is a worthwhile addition to any collection and is particularly useful in integrating science with literature and biography.-- "Library Media Connection, January/February 2014"
Echoing Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius in artistic style and theme, this picture book biography recalls the life and contributions of a horticulturist in the late 19th century. Kate Sessions populated San Diego's landscape with not lupines but trees.... McElmurry's (Mad About Plaid) naive illustrations are packed with patterns, from the dusty brown houses Sessions views as she docks in San Diego to the teardrop and polka-dot motifs in the trees. Likewise, debut author Hopkins skillfully employs a pattern in his narrative, a catchy refrain that emphasizes Sessions's can-do attitude.... Vignettes that include muddy handprints, labeled plant cell parts, and trees subtitled with their Latin names complement the larger gouache spreads, and a concluding note explains more about the inspirational spirit and work of a pioneering arborist.-- "Publishers Weekly, September 2013"

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