Miss Rumphius

April 9, 2011

Title: Miss Rumphius
Author: Barbara Cooney
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780140505399
Publisher: Puffin (1985)
List Price: Paperback, $7.99

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In the spirit of spring, I just had to tell you all about Miss Rumphius!

This lovely picture book, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is one of my favorite springtime stories from when I was little. Although it was published a good 25 years ago, people still come into my bookstore looking for it. Probably because it is amazing. Or maybe because it is a story about growing up, traveling the globe, and making the world a more beautiful place. Or perhaps, they seek it out because it is a story about lupines, blue and purple and rose-colored lupines, but I will get to that later.

Cooney writes about a little girl who lives in a city by the sea. This little girl is named Alice, and she works with her grandfather (an artist, who every now and then lets her paint the skies into his pictures). Alice loves to hear her grandfather’s stories of faraway places, and she always tells him, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.” But her grandfather responds by saying that she must do a third thing, she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grows up, and Cooney writes about her adventures to tropical isles, through jungles and deserts, and to tall mountains where the snow never melts.

But as Alice gets older, she realizes it is time for her to find her place by the sea:

From the porch of her new house Miss Rumphius watched the sun come up; she watched it cross the heavens and sparkle on the water; and she saw it set in glory in the evening. She started a little garden among the rocks that surrounded her house, and she planted flower seeds in the stony ground. Miss Rumphius was almost perfectly happy. “But there is still one more thing I have to do,” she said. “I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.” But what? “The world already is pretty nice,” she thought, looking out over the ocean.

The following spring, Miss Rumphius is surprised to find that the blue and purple and rose-colored lupines that she had planted popped up not only in her garden but over the hill from her house as well. “‘I don’t believe my eyes!’ she said as she knelt in delight. ‘It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped!’ Then Miss Rumphius had a wonderful idea!”

She decided to scatter lupine seeds all over her town that summer. With her pockets heavy with seeds, she wandered over fields and pastures, along highways and down country lanes sowing lupines.

When spring arrived there were blue, purple, and rose-colored lupines everywhere! Miss Rumphius, or The Lupine Lady as she came to be known as, had finally done the third, and most difficult thing! She made the world more beautiful!

Barbara Cooney’s story is interesting, unique, and inspiring, and her illustrations are gorgeous! If you are looking for a great springtime picture book, or really just a fabulous tale for anytime of the year, be sure to pick up Miss Rumphius!

[This is my favorite illustration from the whole book, if I could have it framed I would. I just had to include it here!]

Like Cooney’s paintings as much as I do? Check out her illustrations for Alice Mclerran’s Roxaboxen, another great picture book about adventure, childhood imaginations, and growing up.


One comment

  1. I LOVE this book, especially the pug in the library. This is such a great read aloud and performance book, I would bring props to class to let the kids (ESL)
    see and touch, a bird of paradise and a carved seashell and I even had a picture of my mom on a camel in 1935, and of course, lupines. If someone ever a needed a direction to go in life, follow Miss Rumphius’s example of loving life.

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