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Children's Nonfiction Architecture

Love Every Leaf

The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

by (author) Kathy Stinson

Initial publish date
Apr 2008
Architecture, Careers
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2008
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 14 to 18
  • Grade: 9 to 12


Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who has been a landscape architect for more than sixty years, considers her profession “the art of the possible.” The description also applies to the very way this remarkable 86-year-old has lived her life. Playing in her grandmother’s garden as a child, Cornelia absorbed the beauty and importance of the natural world and by the age of eleven had decided that she would become a landscape architect.

Leaving her native Germany in the wake of Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, the teenaged Cornelia was transplanted in America, where she could pursue her dream in safety, although not without having to struggle to carve out a place for herself in the male-dominated world of her chosen profession. This 96-page biography tells her remarkable life’s story, complete with photographs and plans for the imaginative playgrounds and the innovative museum and embassy grounds she has created around the world, and for green rooftops, her latest passion. Young readers will not only learn about the profession, but also will find inspiration in Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s love for the natural world and the respect and concern she shows for our increasingly fragile environment.

About the author

Kathy Stinson is a familiar name in children’s literature. She wrote the award-winning Red is Best and Big or Little?—two of the first picture books for preschoolers in Canada. Both were a huge success and have since achieved international acclaim. Red is Best 25th Anniversary Edition was released in 2006 a newly illustrated Big or Little? was published in 2009. Kathy’s latest book, The Man with the Violin (2013), was greeted with rave reviews, including starred reviews in Kirkus and uill & uire. Illustrated by Duan Petricic, this beautifully evocative picture book tells the true story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who conducted an experiment by anonymously playing his priceless violin in the Washington D.C. subway station. Kathy grew up in Toronto. “My love affair with books began as a child,” she says. “I remember regular visits to the library, getting stacks of books to read.” She still has a notebook of stories that she wrote when she was in grade four. She believes that reading a lot is the key to becoming a good writer. In the early 1970s Kathy attended university while teaching elementary school. In 1981, she took a course called “How to write and get published.” The titles she has published in the years since range from picture books to young adult novels, from historical fiction chapter books to short stories in the horror genre. 2008 sees the publication of her first brand-new picture book in sixteen years! Kathy enjoys visiting schools across Canada, and especially talking with fellow writers. In 1987 she traveled to England as part of an exchange of Canadian and British children’s authors. She has helped students across Canada pursue their own creative projects through the Writers in Electronic Residence program, and in many communities has conducted writing workshops for children and for adults. When she’s not busy writing or reading, Kathy is a self-proclaimed jigsaw puzzle addict. Her children now grown, she lives with her partner, editor Peter Carver, in a hamlet not far from Guelph, Ontario.

Kathy Stinson's profile page

Librarian Reviews

Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

First up is Kathy Stinson’s inspiring story of a visionary landscape architect who is not well enough known here in the country she now calls home.

Fleeing Hitler’s Germany in 1939, Cornelia Hahn ended up in New York. At the age of 11, Cornelia had decided to pursue landscape architecture and in America she began to follow her dream. Although it was a field not particular welcoming to women, Cornelia’s professor described her as “a person of imagination, efficient, and capable”. Her future husband Peter Oberlander was studying town planning and their first date turned into a four-day work session, with each one helping the other.

After graduation, one of her first projects was a playground for children, work that continues to be nearest to her heart. Her philosophy – that children needed natural features like hills, trees and bushes, and what she called “beautiful junk” (materials to encourage creativity) – developed through the years as she planned successful playgrounds both large and small. One of her most successful projects was the children’s play area at the Canadian pavilion at Expo 67. Making her home on Canada’s west coast, Cornelia also worked on projects like Robson Square in Vancouver, the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Yellowknife legislative building. Now 85, she continues to work on landscape projects around the world.

Stinson tells the story of this remarkable woman’s life with beautiful prose. While attractively designed, the book may appear a little daunting to a child – the text is dense and the photos are all black and white. But don’t let the traditional design put you off. It is an interesting story of a woman with amazing drive and creativity, and Stinson’s passion for her subject is clear throughout the telling. I learned a lot about the importance of good landscape design and how crucial it is for children to have creative play spaces. Kudos to Kathy Stinson on her first biography and I hope it is not her last.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2009. Volume 32 Number 1.

Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, 86, has been a landscape architect for over 60 years. Playing in her grandmother’s garden as a child, she absorbed the beauty and importance of the natural world and by the age of 11 had decided that she would become a landscape architect. Includes black-and-white photographs.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2009.

Other titles by Kathy Stinson