Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Rating: 5 stars

Katherine Olivia Sessions lived in Northern California in the 1860s.  In a time when girls were supposed to be prim and proper, clean and courteous, Kate roamed the redwoods, collected pine needles, and got dirty.

(Don't you like her already?)

She was one of few girls interested in science, and she left home to study plants and soil and water at the University of California.  In 1881, she and a handful of other women held a degree in science.

(Hooray for Kate!)

She moved to Southern California, to San Diego, for a job after graduation.  Unlike her childhood in the north, she was now surrounded by desert and a landscape without trees.  She was a teacher at a local school for a few years, but missed science.  She missed trees, too.  She became determined to find trees to grow in her new home. Few believed this was possible.

(Kate had determination and faith and smarts…enough to solve any problem.)

Her friends worried Kate wouldn't find trees to live in dry
soil with lots and lots of sunshine.
But she did.
It took years of tree hunting to find trees that would grow, but found trees, planted trees, and then opened a nursery to sell trees. All of the trees grew, enriched the landscape, and made city leaders believe that Balboa Park needed trees to become a better setting for a fair that would soon be held there. They turned to Kate, and Kate turned to the community for volunteers to help.  Together, they planted trees and created a lush backdrop for the fair.

I admit that I got this book and a few others like it at the start of Lorelei's nature science camp as further inspiration for her curiosity and interest in the camp.  I read a while back that around the age of seven, girls have a significant decline in their interest of science and math.  Something happens, and I'm not expert enough to understand the nuances of how girls act in school in these subjects in most schools, or what happens psychologically as girls develop and approach things that are Typically Boy and Typically Girl.


I do know that I have a daughter who gasped at the cover of this book and said, "That could be me!" before even opening it.  She identified with Kate Sessions; both girls find solace and wonder among nature and trees.  Both are curious and capable, and care enough about things besides themselves to make a difference in others' lives.  So yes, I want this book lying around to quietly and beautifully remind Lorelei: Individuals matter.  And girls can do great things.

(I believe that Lorelei can.  And will!)

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