How Miss Rumphius made the world more beautiful

When Alice Rumphius was a little girl, she lived with her grandfather, an artist, by the sea.

During the day, he let her help him with his paintings. In the evening, he talked about his childhood in a faraway land.

In this extraordinary picture book, a girl’s grandfather inspires her to live well and do good. 

Afterwards, Alice would say, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” her grandpa told her one night, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Alice grew up, became a librarian, and traveled the globe. When she was ready, she settled in a house by the sea.

But how, she wondered, could she make the world more beautiful?

Finally, she got an idea.

She ordered bushels and bushels of lupine seeds, and for months, she sowed them near and far. Some of her neighbors called her “That Crazy Old Lady,” but she persevered.

And the next spring, when the hills and meadows were a jamboree of color and her neighbors romped through them with glee, she knew she had done “the third, the most difficult thing of all.”

Writer and illustrator Barbara Cooney won a National Book Award for this semi-autobiographical picture book in 1983.