Cactus Queen: Minerva Hoyt Establishes Joshua Tree National Park

Astra/Calkins Creek. Mar. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781662680212.
Gr 1-3–Were it not for the “Cactus Queen” Minerva Hoyt, the Joshua Tree National Park in California might never have existed. Hoyt, born in Mississippi before the turn of the last century, grew up to become an avid gardener, and moved to the Los Angeles area in the 1920s, just as the city was coming into its own. Hoyt often traveled to the Mojave Desert where she learned to appreciate the sparse desert landscape, especially the native Joshua trees. She noted with alarm how many of these unusual plants were being destroyed or uprooted, some for use in early Hollywood movie sets, and sought protection for the area by waging a one-woman campaign to bring attention to it. To convince people that the desert teemed with wildlife and interesting flora, she set up fabulous natural tableaux in cities. That fight eventually led to the establishment of the new national park. Bright desert hues fill illustrations in gouache and colored pencil that perfectly complement the upbeat text which is scattered with quotes from Hoyt’s writings and speeches. This is a fascinating look into the life of a little-known environmental hero. Back matter includes additional information about Hoyt and wildlife in Joshua Tree National Park, photos of Joshua trees, a list of national parks in the U.S., an author’s note, tips for environmental activists, and a selected bibliography.
VERDICT A lively picture book biography with tie-ins to Earth Day and Women’s History Month. Highly recommended.

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