Myra here.



We are excited to join Kidlit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge this year. Our book selections would be interwoven with our current reading theme: Rainbow Colors of Diversity – Voices of the Silenced where we highlight multicultural titles.


I have been seeing this title recommended by fellow kidlit bloggers and so I asked our institution’s librarian to purchase a copy of the book for my higher-degree course. I immediately fell in love with Katherine Olivia Sessions and her love of nature. The greatest thing about picturebook biographies is that it introduces me to so many amazing people I would not otherwise have known.

Kate grew up in the 1860s when women were not expected to get their hands dirty and excel academically in school or even study science. Yet Kate did all this and more.


No woman had ever graduated from the University of California with a degree in science.

But in 1881, Kate did.


I have always had such a strong reverence for women who defy societal expectations and prove their worth simply by being who they are. Life really isn’t all that complicated, but people insist on creating such superfluous boxes and gender-segregated barriers and boundaries. When Kate took a job in Southern California after graduation, she realized that her new home, San Diego, was a desert town. There were no trees in sight. Kate did not whine about her fate, she did not catastrophize over the loss of her precious greens. What she did was quit her job as a teacher and became a gardener. She conducted a thorough research on trees that could thrive in dry soil and lots of sunshine.


Kate became a tree hunter. She wrote letters to gardeners all over the world and asked them to send her seeds that could grow in a desert. She also traveled south into Mexico to look for trees that liked hot, dry weather and steep hills and canyons.

Not everyone knows how to hunt for trees.

But Kate did.

I found that to be one of the most beautiful lines from the book. I love Kate Sessions’ spirit, her tenacity, her busy hands, and her charismatic spirit that convinced people to volunteer to plant as many trees as they are able. She had vision. And she set out to work to make that dream in her mind’s eye a reality. People from San Diego are now enjoying the fruits of her labor as could be seen in the world-famous Balboa Park.

Fats Suela who used to live in San Diego has a number of beautiful photographs from Balboa Park. With her permission, I am sharing a few here with you.

The Tree Lady: The Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. Published by Beach Lane Books, 2013. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.



Reading Challenge Update: 79 (25)


Nonfiction PictureBook Challenge: 4 of 25

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Meet the Tree Hunter and Mother of Balboa Park #‎nfpb2014‬

  1. Holly M @muellerholly

    I LOVED The Tree Lady and found it beautiful and fascinating. I didn’t know anything about her, so it really interested me. Thanks for sharing photos of Balboa Park!


  2. I’ve seen this one recommended quite a bit too but for some reason, I thought it was a contemporary story. Now that I’ve read your review, I want to read it even more! My husband and I always take vacation photos of trees–not sure how or why that started, except we often vacation on the west coast, and there are wonderful trees that are so different from the trees where we live (not that many of those here–the plains are all about wide open space, after all). Thanks for sharing this title!


  3. I just love that book! I’m glad you spotlighted some illustrations because that made the book really special for me! The pictures from Balboa Park today are a great connection!


  4. Wonderful! I’ll check out the book! 😀


  5. It’s a wonderful story, and how great that Fats lives there and sent pics. I’m glad that the park is still going.


  6. Isn’t this a gorgeous book? I love the photographs via Fats!


  7. I’m so bummed I missed seeing the author when he came to do a reading at our store- and I was the one who recommended we get him to my boss! Wonderful story.


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