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Review: The Tree Lady-San Diego with children

Review: The Tree Lady-San Diego with children

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever written by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry tells the story of a rebellious little girl who managed to change the way people thought and viewed the world. Katherine Olivia Sessions loved plants and forests.  In the 1860s, she explored, got dirty and generally did things that proper young ladies weren’t supposed to do at the time.  Her hard work and perseverance made her the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science.  She took her love of science and the outdoors when she moved to San Diego where she worked as a teacher and vice principal at the local school. At the time she arrived, San Diego was a desert town.  Kate missed the trees of her native Northern California, but knew they would not survive in the desert.  So leaving her job as a teacher, she became a “tree hunter” travelling and writing to gardeners all over the world, looking for trees that liked hot, dry weather and would thrive in the arid climate of San Diego. According to the Author’s note, in 1892 Kate made a deal with city leaders to use part of the land in City Park (now Balboa Park) for a nursery.  In exchange she planted one hundred trees in the park every year and gave the city 300 more trees for planting in other places. By the early 1900s, one in four trees growing in San Diego came from Kate’s nursery which at its height contained more than 20,000 plants. In 1909, the city announced that the Panama-California Exposition would be held in 1915 in San Diego’s Balboa Park.  Kate thought the park still needed thousands of trees.  With a team of volunteers, she planted, and planted, and planted.  When the fair opened, millions of trees and plants filled Balboa Park and people were amazed that such a dry climate could support such wonderful gardens. This is a great book about an important figure in San Diego’s history.   I loved the recurring theme of overcoming obstacles with each page ending with “but Kate did.” It’s a great book on...

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Calico Dorsey

Calico Dorsey

Calico Dorsey by Susan Lendroth is based on the true story of a stray dog adopted and trained by Everett and Alwin Stacy to carry mail between the mining towns of Calico and Bismark, California during the silver rush in 1885.  Calico Dorsey actually carried the mail between the towns for nearly three years.  In a world of instant information transfer, my son has a hard time imagining what it must have been like to wait for mail that only came once a week and wanted to know if we could train our dog to deliver the mail too.  The Author’s note includes additional information about the historical origins of the story and a picture of the real Calico Dorsey.  The town of Calico is now a State Historical Landmark which was restored by Walter Knott (Knott’s Berry Farm) in the 1950s to look as it did in the 1800s.   At the height of the boom, the Calico region had close to 500 mines and produced nearly $86 million in silver.  While the boom may be over, kids can still see the conditions in which miners worked, ride an old mining cart, and pan for gold. Calico Dorsey is a great start for igniting their imaginations and reliving a piece of...

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Whales Passing

Whales Passing

Whales Passing by Eve Bunting was published in 2003.  It’s a cute story about a little boy standing with his father and watching the orcas go by.  The little boy wonders about the orcas and how they find their way and imagines what they are saying about him in return.  Whale watching can be a lot of fun with kids and can be done both from the shore as well as on a boat tour.  There are whale watching tours available in the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend, Washington and multiple locations in Oregon.  The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department trains volunteers who are staitioned at whale watching sites during the winter and spring migrations (roughly the end of March and...

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Review: Pop’s Bridge-California with children

Review: Pop’s Bridge-California with children

Pop’s Bridge by Eve Bunting was first published in 2006.  It tells the story of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco from the perspective of Robert, the son of one of the ironworkers building the bridge. There’s so much to do and see in San Francisco, but it is well worth visiting the Golden Gate Bridge while you’re there.  You can walk, drive or bike across and the views are spectacular. Robert watches the building of the bridge from Fort Point with his friend Charlie whose dad is a painter on the bridge.  Built at the height of the California Gold Rush in 1853, Fort Point was designed to protect San Francisco harbor from foreign attack and is now a National Historic Site.  It’s full of history and a really nice place to wander around.  It’s still one of the best places to get a close up view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Robert and Charlie watch the building of the bridge everyday.  In the beginning of the story, Robert thinks that the ironworkers are the most important bridge workers and downplays the role of the painter’s like Charlie’s father, but in the end, he realizes that they’re equally important and the jobs they’re doing are equally dangerous.  Pop’s bridge does a good job of capturing the emotions surrounding the building of the bridge, the riskiness of the venture, and how it captured the hearts of the city....

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