Miss Rumphius

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Miss Rumphius, story and pictures by Barbara Cooney

miss rumphiusWhen Alice was a little girl, she lived in a city by the sea where she helped her grandfather with his paintings.  Her grandfather told her stories of faraway places he had seen in his travels.

Alice told her grandfather that she, too, wanted to travel and to live by the sea when she grew old.  Her grandfather said she must do one other thing as well:  she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Alice grew up and set out to do those three things.  She moved to another city and worked as a librarian.  There she was called Miss Rumphius.  She began to travel, and saw a tropical island and met interesting people. She climbed mountains, saw jungles and deserts, saw lions and kangaroos, and made friends with new people.  Then one day, she hurt her back getting off a camel.

 “Well, I have certainly seen faraway places.  Maybe it is time to find my place by the sea.”

So, Miss Rumphius settled in a house by the sea where she could see the sun rise and set.  She started a little garden.  She was almost 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, Miss Rumphius didn’t know what that could be.  She became ill and had to stay in bed.  She could see the flowers she had planted in her garden – lupines – and wished she were well enough to plant more.

When she was well again, Miss Rumphius discovered that the wind and birds had carried seeds from the lupines in her garden to the other side of the hill.  Then she got an idea.  She ordered bushels of lupine seeds and carried these seeds in her pockets.  As she walked all over the area that summer, she scattered lupine seeds.

The next spring lupines bloomed everywhere.  Every year there were more and more lupines.  Miss Rumphius had found a way to make the world more beautiful.

This is a sweet story (with colorful illustrations that draw readers in) about a woman who sets out to live her life in a certain way, and does just that.  What can you do to make the world a more beautiful place?

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