“Eliza’s Cherry Trees”

By Andrea Zimmerman; illustrations by Ju Hong Chen; age 6 and older.

Who was most responsible for the cherry trees being planted in Washington?

You might answer that it was the Japanese government. Or perhaps you would say William Howard Taft, who was the U.S. president when the trees were planted in 1912. But you would be wrong.

The person most responsible for the beauty that surrounds the Tidal Basin and that defines Washington in springtime is Eliza Scidmore. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Scidmore (it’s pronounced Sid-more). This beautiful picture book tells the story of the amazing woman who not only recognized that the Tidal Basin would look beautiful surrounded by the trees she saw in Japan, but also campaigned for years to have her dream become a reality.

Although most KidsPost readers probably think of themselves as too old for picture books, this one tells a fascinating story of a little-known part of local history. Scidmore was not just a pioneer for cherry trees; she was also a pioneer for women’s rights.

As part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, “Eliza’s Cherry Trees” author Andrea Zimmerman will be at the Japanese Street Festival’s Children’s Corner from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 9. Children’s Corner is in Freedom Plaza at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Entrance to the street festival this year costs $5 for adults; it is free for children 12 and younger. A portion of the admission costs will be donated to help Japan recover from the earthquake and tsunami.

— Tracy Grant