Annual Giverny Book Award winner announced, exhibit unveiled at MSU

Contact: James Carskadon

MSU Associate Professor of Geosciences Renee Clary announces “The Tree Lady” as the 2017 Giverny Award Winner. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—For the first time in its 20-year history, the winner of the 2017 Giverny Award was announced at Mississippi State University.

The Giverny Award is a national children’s science picture book award presented annually and established in 1998 by Jim Wandersee and Elisabeth E. Schussler, who were at that time affiliated with the 15 Degree Laboratory at Louisiana State University. Renee Clary, MSU associate professor of geosciences, became director of the 15 Degree Lab in 2014. A display for the Giverny Award, located across from the Dunn-Seiler Museum in Hilbun Hall, was unveiled Monday [April 17].

The 2017 Giverny Award winner is “The Tree Lady,” written by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. The book chronicles the true story of Katherine Olivia Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in natural sciences. Sessions worked to turn San Diego, then a dry desert town, into a leafy city known for its parks and gardens. The book was chosen by the 15 Degree Lab’s Award Selection Committee.

“The committee noticed that this book really showcased the triumphant spirit of Kate Sessions,” Clary said. “Here’s a true story of a woman that overcame a lot of obstacles, persevered and succeeded. Even though it’s a historical story, it has characters and a plot. It’s very age appropriate and the illustrations blend beautifully with the text to create a lasting story and impression for our youngest readers.”

“The Tree Lady” was published in 2013 by Beach Lane Books.

The Giverny Award display was designed by Department of Geosciences Instructor Amy Moe Hoffman, who also chairs MSU’s Museum and Galleries Committee. It features the 2017 award winner and previous winners. As part of hosting the award, MSU will partner with local schools for readings and book presentations.

“It feels like we’re coming home with an award,” Clary said. “I first became a member of the 15 Degree Lab in 2001. We tried to blend science instruction, so people would get the whole instruction. We’ve had this partnership for a long time between MSU professors and LSU professors, and now we’re bringing the award to Mississippi State’s campus for the first time.”

For more on the Giverny Award, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at