a life that reminds us how beautiful the world is and how valuable we all are

by Barbara Cooney - Penguin Young Readers, 1985.
ages 4 years to grown-up / emotional resilience, read-it-before-you-need-its.o.s.e.

Miss Rumphius is a charming story about a woman who commits as a child to do three things:

1. go to faraway places
2. live beside the sea
3. do something to make the world more beautiful

Not a bad list! In the course of life, Miss Rumphius does indeed travel the world; she does eventually settle by the sea; and, to make the world more beautiful, she scatters the seeds of her favourite flower – the Lupine – everywhere she goes around her seaside community.

Aside from being an incredibly pretty book, this is also a book with a lot of work to do! 

There are delightful family connections between Miss Rumphius, her grandfather and her great-niece. There are hints about how having valuable work can revive us and give us strength and the will to go on. There’s a really strong theme of doing good in whichever way you can. And there are reminders that, while the world is beautiful, we can each play a part in keeping it that way and making it more beautiful. 

I love the way Miss Rumphius takes charge of her life and does interesting things. And I love the value given to different lives:

the grandfather’s quiet immigrant life of risk and hard work

Miss Rumphius’ surprising life of adventure and travel at a time when it was rare for a woman to travel alone

and the great-niece who lives a carefree life of privilege, still retaining an understanding of her own need to contribute.

The story is very much about the passage of time – the scenery changes from a bustling sea-port with tall ships in the bay through to a quaint seaside town with cars on the street. And then there’s the diversity of culture and geography that Miss Rumphius’ travels take us to.

You can buy Miss Rumphius via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia (if you're buying it as a gift, it's particularly lovely with a packet of seeds)