Miss Rumphius

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
Civil Society
Common Good
Fiction Literature
Miss Rumphius
Philanthropic Literature
by Barbara Cooney A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others. Spanish Version Attached.

What is our responsibility in the world? To Alice Rumphius, her responsibility was to do something to make the world more beautiful. But what does that mean to her and what does it mean to you? Making the world a more beautiful place may seem like a big task, but small simple gestures may have a bigger impact than you imagine. This book inspires the reader to think of small ways to do something for the common good. What will you do to make the world more beautiful?

Before Reading

ASK: What can you do to make the world a beautiful place?

SHOW: Look at the pictures throughout the book. Notice that the character goes to faraway places and grows older.

CONNECT: This is a story that tells about one person from when she is a child to a very old woman. There are three things she wants to do in her life. Let’s find out what they are.

During Reading

ASK: What are the three things Miss Rumphius wants to do?

SHOW: What job does she have? Where does she travel? How does she feel about other people?

CONNECT: What do you think she will do to make the world beautiful? What would you like to do to make the world beautiful in your lifetime?

After Reading

ASK: What does the young Alice at the end of the story say she wants to do in her life? Why do you think she wants to do the same thing as her great aunt?

SHOW: Look at the final pictures of the children enjoying the company and flowers of Miss Rumphius. What does that tell you about Miss Rumphius?

CONNECT: Although Miss Rumphius seems to be alone her whole life, she is part of several different communities. What are the different communities? What different communities do you belong to? (A community is a group of people coming together for a common purpose or in a common place.)


  1. Design and carry out a plan to make the world a more beautiful place. Ideas include cleaning up a park, planting flowers, and organizing a recycling effort.
  2. Think of several examples of beauty in the world. Sort your ideas into different lists, such as natural things/made by humans or big/small or things to see/actions.
  3. Think of several examples of things in the world that could be made beautiful. List the steps to make one thing beautiful.
  4. Brainstorm a list of possible jobs for yourself and other family members. Look at the jobs in the book, jobs of people you know, and jobs related to current interests. When you are ready to choose a job for yourself (as a grown up), what do you think are the important things to consider? Why do you think Miss Rumphius chose the job she did?
  5. Design a seed packet for one kind of flower. Include labels, pictures, and descriptions. Use words that would appeal to Miss Rumphius.
  6. Observe a flower carefully. Then do one or more of the following:
    • Use a ruler to measure it.
    • Write a careful description of the flower.
    • Draw a detailed picture of it.
    • Write a poem about the flower using descriptions related to several of your senses.
  7. Discuss the meaning of the word philanthropy (the giving or sharing of one’s time, talent, or treasure of the sake of another or the common good). Talk about how philanthropy is related to the story of Miss Rumphius. Talk about ways that your family is/can be philanthropists with time, with talent, and with treasure. Here are some ways other people are philanthropic:
    • Jerry and his mother spend every Thanksgiving at a local soup kitchen helping to serve meals to the homeless.
    • Mr. Roberts’ class goes outside once a week to pick up trash around a local neighborhood.
    • Bobby gives half of his allowance each week to an organization to support homeless people.
    • Sheila baby-sits for her little cousin once a week so her Aunt can study and finish college.
    • Katrina and Troy visit an area nursing home once a month to visit the elderly residents and give them seasonal cards and decorations.
    • Lakeside Elementary has a mitten and sock clothesline at school to provide new mittens and socks for homeless children


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