INSIDE: Learning Adventures + The Philosophy of Miss Rumphius
It simultaneously makes you wipe a tear from the beauty of the story and inspires you to action. Barbara Cooney could not have created a more perfect picture book specimen.
It’s stands out among books as an example for others to follow.
The Heart of the Story
The message of Miss Rumphius proclaims that everyone can make the world a more beautiful place in their own simple way. Even small efforts matter.
After traveling the world and seeing many wonders, Miss Rumphius finds peace at her beloved seaside. She plants lupine seeds and is heartened by the beauty of the flowers the following year in the midst of pain. This strengthens her resolve to spread more beauty for all to enjoy.
She becomes known as the Lupine Lady.
If you’ve read the book, you might remember that she spends only one summer spreading lupine seeds. The beauty that returns every year is her legacy. The simple resolve to beautify her immediate world had a lasting impact.
That is true nature stewardship: caring for our immediate surroundings, making efforts to beautify them, and considering long-term consequences of our choices.
There are several components of Miss Rumphius that can become fun and interesting ways to expand your children’s experience with this practically perfect story.
Discussing the philosophy:
- How does Miss Rumphius make the world more beautiful?
- Why do you think her grandfather’s words inspired her to do that?
- What are some things we can do to make our world more beautiful?
- How might this differ from person to person?
You might consider also using some of these discussion questions for more in-depth conversation.
Real Life: Did you know that the character of Miss Rumphius was likely inspired by this true story?
Geography: Based on the true story, we can deduce that the seaside where Miss Rumphius settles down represents Christmas Cove in Maine. This New England area earned its name from Captain John Smith from early American history. You can read more and see photographs at this link.
Nature Study: Learn more about the lupinus polyphyllus flower, a member of the pea family, including its poisonous parts and what small bird it attracts.
- Early in the story, Miss Rumphius visits a conservatory (perhaps one like this). Learn about the science of how greenhouses stay warm year round by visiting this link.
- Miss Rumphius finds a large patch of lupines away from where she originally planted them and exclaims, “It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped!” Read about various ways that nature helps with seed dispersal.
Project & Activity Ideas
Visit a local botanical garden or wildflower center to learn about plants that are native to your area. If you don’t have one nearby, ask your local plant nursery about native plants. Knowledgeable plant nursery employees are usually willing to teach you a little about native plants and show you examples of ones that will thrive in your area. (This is a perfect opportunity for nature journaling!)
Choose and purchase native wildflower seeds to spread in your own garden or an area nearby (with permission, of course). It’s important to note that introducing non-native plant species to your area can create issues, so be sure to ask an expert or search for good options. Several seasons ago, my family spread bluebonnet seeds in an open area near our home. Like Miss Rumphius, we get to enjoy the benefits of that event every year when bluebonnets reappear.
Miss Rumphius travels all over the world and visits many unnamed locations. Based on the descriptions and illustrations, make some guesses on where she might have traveled and locate them on a map.
Younger children might enjoy coloring a picture of a lupine flower. Find a printable coloring page here.
Food to Try
Meals aren’t mentioned in Miss Rumphius other than a bowl of porridge for breakfast, which isn’t terribly complicated to make (or particularly enticing, in my opinion).
However, at one exotic location, Miss Rumphius visits with the king of a fishing village who serves her fresh coconut water straight from a coconut. You might not have access to a fresh, green coconut to slice open, but your family could buy coconut water and sip it from bowls while reading the story.
Other Books to Inspire
We also love these picture book biographies based on real women who took nature stewardship to heart. Like the fictional character of Miss Rumphius, they created their own legacies by positively impacting their communities.
Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America tells of a lonely childhood in the Piney Woods of East Texas to an exciting life in the White House, Lady Bird Johnson loved these wildflowers with all her heart. They were her companions in her youth, greeting her everywhere as she explored wild forests, bayous, and hills.More info →
Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens. See our recommended companion book below.More info →
Has your family been inspired by the story of Miss Rumphius? We want to hear about your learning adventures from this wonderful book!
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