My Mother, Miss Rumphius

May 4th, 2011 by Eliza Eliza

As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but share a picture book that is very special to me and my mother. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (Viking, 1982) is one of our favorite books to read about this time of year. Cooney’s delicate watercolors, rich hues of purples, blues and pinks, perfectly capture the misty Maine landscape when lupines are in bloom.

As a child, Miss Rumphius knew that she wanted to travel the world and see many exotic faraway places and then spend her old age living by the sea. Her grandfather reminds her there is something else very important she must do in her lifetime, as well. She must “do something to make the world more beautiful.” After traveling around the world, Miss Rumphius retires to a small house in Maine by the sea, but still can’t think of what she can do to make the world a more beautiful place. After planting her first lupine seeds and seeing how they naturally spread with the help of the wind and birds, bringing beautiful pastel blooms to the countryside, she finally gets an idea. With pockets of lupine seeds, Miss Rumphius sows and spreads the beauty of the wildflowers across the town and countryside so that years later, every spring and early summer, everyone can enjoy the beauty of the flowers.

This book was an instant favorite of my mother’s as she searched out picture books to read to her children and, in turn, it became a favorite of mine. It’s a quiet and cozy book, with a longer text than many picture books. Perhaps more contemplative than action-packed, it suited our two creative, nature-loving minds perfectly. We would read the book together and be taken to all the faraway places that Cooney’s delicate watercolors went – a tropical island, snow covered mountains, the rocky seaside of Maine. While my mother lived her whole life in Massachusetts, the coast of Maine always had a special draw for her and, like Miss Rumphius, I think she would like to spend her days by the sea. We both lived vicariously through this special picture book.

For Mother’s Day one year, I gave her a copy of Miss Rumphius (to replace the beat-up old version I had since commandeered for my own personal picture book collection) for reading to her grandchildren and for keeping in the new library of her very own Maine house. Yes, finally a house in Maine by the sea, made more beautiful by this Lupine Lady mother of mine.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Do you have a book that’s special between you and your mom? And for you mothers out there, is there one book that is particularly important to you and your child? Share with us in the comments below!

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2 Responses to “My Mother, Miss Rumphius”

  1. I think so many of us want to become Miss Rumphius, and I love how your mom just did it! What a great picture. I think of Miss Rumphius whenever I see lupines, which can grow in masses so many places — but not in my garden, and believe me, I’ve tried. I guess I might have to move to Maine,

  2. Lucy says:

    The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is the story that I sent to my mother a year or two ago because it reminded me of her and all of us (14 !) that she very proudly and confidently cared for and directed as this mother bunny does in the book. She was always on top of dinner, medical appts., birthdays, whatever we needed. She took pride in her work being a full time mom.

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