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Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius

story and pictures by Barbara Cooney

Penguin Books: Published by The Puffin Group, 1982






            Alice is a little girl who must do three things in her life: 1) She must travel to far away places. 2) She will live by the sea when she settles down. 3) She must make the world more beautiful in some way. So, as Alice gets older she travels around the world and meets many people. After this, she settles down in a little house by the sea. She is curious as to how to make the world more beautiful when she stumbles upon scattering Lupine flower seeds across the town. The next spring there are lupines everywhere and she is referred to as the "Lupine Lady" from then on.


Discussion questions:

1)Do you want to go to faraway places?

            A. How far away?

                        i)Across the country?

                        ii)To Europe?Asia?Australia?

                        iii)To the moon? The sun? Outer space?

            B. Would you lie to live in your town when you grow up? Or someplace completely different, like the dessert, the mountains, or by the sea?

            C. Why is seeing different cultures and other parts of the world good?Does it make Miss Rumphius happy?

            D. Would you miss where you'd left if you traveled around the world?

            C. Do you make friends you'll never forget wherever you go?

                        i) Could making people happy be the same as making the world more beautiful?

2)Does Miss Rumphius make the world more beautiful?

            A. How would you make the world more beautiful?

            B. When Miss Rumphius' grandfather tells her to "do something to make the world more beautiful" does he mean for her to make the world better?

            C. What does it mean to make the world better?

            D. Do like things that are beautiful? Or are things beautiful because you like them?

            E. Do you smile when you see something beautiful? Does it make you happy? How do you know/

            F. Do you think something is beautiful when nobody else does? What?

            G. What do you see that can make you happy besides flowers?

3) Is Miss Rumphius crazy?

            A. Why do people call her the "crazy old lady" when she scatters seeds?

            B. Why does she scatter seeds?

            C. Do you think people still called her that crazy old lady after they saw all the lupines she made possible? Why or why not?

            D. What does it mean to be crazy?

                        i) Can you be crazy "about" something?

                        ii) If your parents say that they are crazy about you, is it the same thing as being called crazy? Why is it different?

4) Miss Rumphius scatters the seeds and lupines pop up everywhere. Do you think there are some people who got sick of seeing that many lupines?

            A. Is something not as  special if you can get it or see it anywhere?

            B. If you could see a sunset all the time, would it be as beautiful?

            C. What if Miss Rumphius had planted weeds? What if she had planted roses?

5)The Lupine Lady is a "great-Aunt." What is a great-Aunt? Does it mean she's really good?

            A. If a great-Aunt is a sister to your grandma or grandpa, do you have a great-Aunt or Uncle?

            B. Could you be a great-Aunt or Uncle some day?

6) What does it mean to grow up?

            A. Is it when you reach a certain age? How old?

                        i)Junior high school?

                        ii)High school?


            B. What are you now if you aren't grown up?

            C. Does it take time to grow up?

            D. Did Miss Rumphius have a good life?

                        i)A good childhood?

                        ii)A good young adulthood?

            E. Is it important to do different things during your life?

                        i) Like playing when you're a kid?

                        ii) Or working when you're an adult?

            F. What do you want to do?


What is Beauty?

Miss Rumphius is a story about perception and consideration. There are stages to ones life and we must accept all of these as a natural evolution. Miss Rumphius does what she wants for many years. She makes herself happy, and in making herself happy, she makes others happy. A beautiful thing can inspire great things and Miss Rumphius makes everything she does beautiful, whether it is the friends she makes or the little town by the sea that she lives in and the stories she tells to the children.


Nurture v. Nature

(Question 1)

The idea of who you would be if you'd grown up in a different place is prevalent here. Discuss the values of knowing what else there is in the world and why it's also valuable to remain in one place and have strong roots there.


The Eye of The Beholder

(Questions 2 and 4)

This question deals with the perception of beauty and if it is in the eye of the beholder or more universal. It goes into the same thought process as the definition of art. Art may be beautiful, it may be horrific, but it always makes us feel something and it has an impact.



(Questions 3 and 5)

Insanity and craziness are hotly debated definitions. People use them jokingly and clinically, but they really have more than one connotation. These question explores those connotations and the use of language and double entendre.


Growing Up

(Question 6)

Every child has a definition of who or what a grown up is, whether it be their parents, their relatives, their teachers. Most children also understand that there are different stages to growing up, things you get to do more of, responsibilities and privileges that come with age. This question explores those options.







by Alissa Fitzgerald