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Miss Rumphius Hardcover – November 8, 1982

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Like Miss Rumphius, the late Barbara Cooney traveled the world, lived in a house by the sea in Maine, and, through her art, made the world more beautiful.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (November 8, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670479586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670479580
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Cooney and her twin brother were born on August 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York to Russell Schenck Cooney and Mae Evelyn Bossert. Because her father was a stockbroker, her family lived in suburbia, which Barbara disliked.
Cooney attended a boarding school as a child. Never considering an art school and wanting a liberal arts education, she later attended Smith College where she studied art history and received her degree in 1938, a decision she was later to regret.
Realizing that she needed to make a living at something, she decided that illustrating books was a career as good as any. She attended classes on etching and lithography at the Art Students League in New York City.
She quickly received assignments after getting a portfolio together and schlepping it around to publishers, but, unfortunately, World War II postponed her new career for a bit. Recalling an earlier trip to Germany prior to the war and the horrors that she had seen there, she was compelled to join the Women's Army Corps during the summer of 1942.
She enrolled in officer training and achieved the rank of second lieutenant, but was honorably discharged the following spring because of marriage and the pregnancy of her first child, Gretel. She married Guy Murchie, Jr., a war correspondent, in December of 1944. In 1945, the young couple bought a farm in Pepperell, Massachusetts where they ran a children's camp during the summer months. One can only imagine that, perhaps, family life didn't suit Mr. Murchie and the couple divorced in March of 1947, but not before having one more child, Barnaby.
With a young family to support, Cooney resumed her career in book illustration. She married Charles Talbot Porter, a physician, on July 16, 1949, and the couple had two more children, Charles Talbot Jr. and Phoebe Ann.
By this time, Cooney was illustrating several books a year and even wrote one herself now and then. In fact, it was for her adaptation of Chaucer's The Nun Priest's Tale that she won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1959.
Cooney was a stickler for details and traveled extensively to support her research. A visit to Mexico was required to study at the art and anthropological museums there. A visit to Finland was in order to meet with artist, writers and folklorists there.
Cooney died on 14 March, 2000 at the age of 83. Her last book was Basket Moon published in September of 1999
In the later part of her career Cooney focused on writing and illustrating more books of her own, and these were equally well--received. Miss Rumphius, for which the author won both the American Book Award and a New York Times citation in 1982, was inspired by the true story of a woman who traveled the world collecting flower seeds and came home at last to make something beautiful. Her most recent books include Hattie and the Wild Waves.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

180 of 182 people found the following review helpful By Jl Metcalf on July 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Many children ask, in various ways, the meaning of life. And, as adults, we stutter and try to cough out some semblance of a meaningful answer that the child will understand. When my daughter was three, she literally asked, "Why are we here?" I had no idea how to answer.
Almost on cue, we read this book a week later, and it answered the question perfectly. This is the story of a woman named Miss Rumphuis. As a child, she sat on her grandfather's knee and posed the very question as my daughter. His answer was one of the most simple, beautiful, and meaningful that I've ever read. I can't imagine anyone in this world arguing against it, no matter what religion (or non-religion), political persuasion, or culture.
The answer provides the impetus as to how Miss Rumphuis led the rest of her life. It seems as if nearly every reviewer has already given the entire plot, so it's no surprise that her grandfather's answer to why we are here is to simply make the world a more beautiful place. When my daughter heard that, her reply was, "Mommy, you've already made the world a more beautiful place." When I asked how, she replied, "By having me!" I couldn't begin to argue against such wisdom from one of God's small miracles.
This book may appear to be nothing more than a lovely illustrated child's book containing a heartfelt tale. Without a doubt, the illustrations are rich; Ms. Cooney is an extremely talented woman. However, I also believe its message (which is never, ever preachy) is extremely powerful. As such, it is my favorite children's book, and I think every child (and adult) on this earth should read it.
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143 of 148 people found the following review helpful By slomamma on September 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of those rare picture books that is so beautiful and so wise that you ought to read it even if you donÕt have children. But if you have a child to share it with, do so immediately, and consider yourself privileged.
In this book, you watch a little girl named Alice grow into an old, old woman, a retired librarian, named Miss Rumphius. Her life is filled with exciting adventures, but as she grows older, none of it feels like enough to her. She keeps recalling some advice her grandfather gave her when she was a child. He told her that in order to live a good life, she had to "do something to make the world more beautiful." But even as an old woman, she canÕt figure out what to do. Finally, realizing the joy sheÕs always gotten from flowers, especially lupines, she decides to share that joy with others by scattering lupine seeds everywhere she goes. She completely transforms the rocky landscape around her home. In the end, she tells her story to her young niece, who wonders how SHE will make the world more beautiful. And so the cycle continues.
My daughter, who is six, has talked about this book several times, and told me she hasnÕt yet figured out how she is going to make the world more beautiful. But the fact that she is thinking about it at such a young age makes me proud, and very happy to have found this lovely book to share with her.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The narrator's great aunt, Alice Rumphius, wanted to travel the world and do the one thing her grandfather told her she must do. He told her she must do something to make the world more beautiful. Miss Rumphius travels the world and comes back to live by the sea where the story began. She discovered her way of making the world more beautiful was scattering flower seeds so everyone could enjoy the beauty of the colorful flowers. The story ends with Miss Rumphius telling her great-neice that she must do something to make the world more beautiful.
Teacher Notes: This book would be excellent to read if you were doing a unit on plants or the earth. Even though this book is fiction, realistic things happen like the wind and birds scattering flower seeds. Kindergarten and first grade would enjoy having this book read aloud to them. Second and third graders could read it on their own.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This beautiful book is also a biography of the author's great Aunt Alice Rumphius, who when she was a little girl, told her grandfather that she wanted to live by the sea, and visit foreign lands. Her grandfather also encouraged her to do someting to make the world more beautiful. That she did, by planting wildflowers year after year. In the end of the story the author was told by her great aunt to make the world more beautiful, but she still doesn't know how. I think that Barbara Cooney made the world more beautiful by writing this book. I would like to buy one as a present, and I hope this never goes out of print.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on June 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
When Alice was a little girl she lived in a village by the sea, and in the evenings would sit on her grandfather's knee and listen to his stories of faraway places. It was then that she decided that when she grew up she too would travel the world, and then, when she grew old, come back home and live in a house by the sea. Her wise grandfather listened to her dreams and then made her promise to do one more thing. "You must do something to make the world more beautiful." Little Alice grew up; she was called Miss Rumphius now, and set out on her worldwide adventure. She visited tropical islands and beaches, climbed mountains, walked through jungles, and across deserts, making friends wherever she went. And when she was finished traveling, she went home to her house by the sea. But there was still one more thing Miss Rumphius had to do...fulfill the promise she made to her grandfather, and when she saw lupine flowers blooming outside her window, she knew just what she would do to make the world a more beautiful place..... Award winning author and illustrator, Barbara Cooney, has written a sweet and simple story, with a lovely message that reminds us all to take a little extra time and make the world a better place in which to live. Her gentle, eloquent text is enhanced by her beautiful and engaging illustrations that capture the imagination, and send it soaring. Perfect for youngsters 4-8, Miss Rumphius is a magical, heartwarming treasure, and a picture book to share with family and friends now, and future generations in the years to come.
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