Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 FOCAL AWARD: The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Written by H. Joseph Hopkins, Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature, the support group of the Children’s programs of the Los Angeles Public Library) has chosen  The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins as the award winner for 2014. The award will be presented at a luncheon December 6, 2014. This beautifully written book chronicles the life of Kate Sessions, who led a campaign to plant trees in San Diego, California, thus turning the city from a seaside desert to a urban garden. Colorful illustrations by Jill McElmurry convey Kate Session’s passion for plants.
I have been a member of the FOCAL Award Committee for four years, this year (my final year) as the past chair. Books that are considered for this award must have a California connection, and I must say I always learn more about my state after reading the books nominated for each year. This book gave me a new perspective on the beautiful city of San Diego and on a determined woman who followed her dream.

Katherine Olivia Sessions was born on Nob Hill in San Francisco November 8, 1857. After graduation from high school in Oakland,she entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1877, where she studied science and graduated in 1881. Her horticultural career began after teaching briefly in San Diego where she accepted a position in 1884. As owner of a flower shop and a succession of nurseries in Coronado, City Park, Mission Hills and Pacific Beach, she became a central figure in California and national horticultural circles with her landscaping, plant introductions, and classes.
It is in Balboa Park that the legacy of Kate Sessions is most obvious. She leased land in what was then called "City Park" in 1892 for a nursery. For this privilege, she was to plant one hundred trees a year in the park and furnish three hundred more for planting throughout the city. In 1902 she was instrumental in the formation of the park Improvement Committee with her friends George Marston and Mary B. Coulston. Their work resulted in assuring the park's place in the life of the community. Kate Sessions died March 24, 1940. She has come to be called the "Mother of Balboa Park" and a bronze statue of her was erected there in 1998.

(Excerpted from the San Diego History Center)

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