Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius

Barbara Cooney
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Penguin, 1985   ISBN: 978-0140505399

When Alice was a small girl she used to talk to her grandfather about how, when she grew up, she would "go to faraway places," and when she grew old she would "live beside the sea." Alice's grandfather told her that in addition to these two things, there was a third thing that she must do, and that was to do something that would "make the world more beautiful."

When Alice grew up to become Miss Rumphius she did indeed travel to far off lands, and she had all sorts of adventures. Then, when she began to get tired, she found a little house by the sea to live in. The question she now had was what she should do to make the world a more beautiful place.

One day when she was out walking she found some beautiful lupines growing on a hillside. The lupines were the offspring of the flowers that she had planted in her own little garden the previous spring. Now Miss Rumphius knew what she would have to do. Back at home she sent away for bags and bags of lupine seeds and then she got to work sowing the seeds all over the countryside, making the hills and valleys around her home beautiful.

This delightful story about dreams and the need to give something back to the world is both powerful and thought provoking. What the elderly Miss Rumphius does is not earth shaking, and yet it does make the world a more beautiful place, and her labours give lots of people great pleasure as they look at the fields of lupines that she sowed. The reader cannot help wondering what he or she can do to make the world a more beautiful place. Whatever one chooses to do, whether it is planting trees or joining a group to clean up the countryside, each effort to make the world more beautiful makes a difference.