Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America
written by Andrea Zimmerman; illustrated by Ju Hong Chen
2011 (Pelican Publishing Company)
Source: Orange County Public Library
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Eliza Scidmore lived an unusual life for a young woman in the late 19th century. She was able to travel to Europe as a teenager and this fueled her desire to travel to more places. Eliza found that writing would pay her way to travel around the world. One of her stops was Alaska, which fascinated her so much that she wrote the first guidebook about the territory. Another destination captured her heart. Eliza's brother worked in Japan which led to her visiting there. She fell in love with the culture and most of all the gardens. Her favorite plant was the Japanese cherry tree. Japan so enthralled her that she wrote a book and hoped that the two countries could become greater friends. Later, as she was walking on the muddy banks of the Potomac in her hometown, Eliza remembered the cherry trees and began a more than twenty year quest to bring Japanese cherry trees to the nation's capital. Eliza's patience won out as she picked up an important ally in the wife of President Taft. Finally in 1912, the first cherry trees were planted.
Eliza's Cherry Trees shows what can be done with determination and patience. Eliza Scidmore led an incredibly interesting life and met her goal. Students can learn from her persistence. It would interesting for students to hypothesize on why it took so long for Eliza's dream to come true. It's not speculated on by the author, but perhaps her gender played a part. This would also be a good book to share around Earth Day as your class thinks about ways to help the environment. In the back matter is a good example of a time line which could be used as a model for students to use.