Miss Rumphius

by Barbara Cooney

New York: Viking Press, 1982

28 pp

Ages: 3 +

Interests: flowers, single life, strong girls, travel

Charming, folk art-style paintings illustrate a lovely story with a terrific off-centre heroine. It’s the story of a lady who accomplishes all her goals in life, none of which involve finding a man! (!) As a child Alice Rumphius claims:

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

After this scene we see her adventurous life – her work, her travels, her house by the sea. And she finally thinks of a way to make the world more beautiful: by patiently scattering lupine seeds about until the countryside is rich with pink and purple flowers.  It is so refreshing to have a heroine who never marries and who is a success in her life, who is entirely satisfied and content, and lives as an inspiration to all the children in town. (And me too.)

Miss Rumphius is a fantastic model for doing what will make you happy in life, and not what is expected of you.

Barbara Cooney is the also the illustrator of two Caldecott Award winning books, “Ox-Cart Man” by Donald Hall (1980), and “Chanticleer and the Fox” (1959), which she adapted from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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