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Miss Rumphius

A Tale About Making the World More Beautiful

Last week, our librarian recommended several books to us for Women’s History Month, which is in March. I checked out a big bag of them and we have been enjoying each one so far. One of them in particular is my favorite. Written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, the book is called Miss Rumphius, and it is the tale of a single woman who lives and adventurous, amazing life—and helps both people and the world throughout her lifetime.

Miss Rumphius—also known as Alice, the Lupine Lady, and the Crazy Old Lady, depending upon which year of her life it is—grew up in a city by the sea. She helped her grandfather make his paintings that he would sell, and when he told her of his great adventures she was simply amazed and announced that she, too, would have great travels around the world and then return to a home by the sea.

Her grandfather told her that it was a nice aspiration, but that she should do one more thing as well—and that was to make the world more beautiful somehow. Alice agreed, though she wasn’t sure how.

The rest of the story details her great adventures around the world, her job as a librarian, and finally her homecoming in her older years, in which she decides to help make the world a more beautiful place in a very special way.

The narrator of the story, Alice’s great-niece, wishes to do the same things that her aunt did throughout her life—and you can guess what her aunt told her when she revealed this dream: that she, too, should make the world more beautiful somehow during (or after) her adventures. The book ends with the little girl vowing to do so, though she doesn’t know how just yet—just as her aunt did not know until the inspiration came to her, too.

It is SUCH a beautiful story, with gorgeous art and a wonderful story about a brave woman with gumption who leads her own life, doesn’t get married, and still finds such fulfillment and joy in life. It should be required reading for anyone, but especially for girls who are so often pressured to settle down and marry. My daughter is already much like Miss Lupine, with her disinterest with boys and dresses and marriage and her desire to travel. Perhaps she, too, will make the world more beautiful.