Miss Rumphius Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
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 caring for the environment. 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: When Alice was young her grandfather told her stories and challenged her to make the world more beautiful. Is there someone in your family who tells you stories about what it was like when they were young? What have you learned about them from those stories?

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. Take a walk. Be mindful of beauty of nature all around us. On your walk, discuss how we can nurture and add to the beauty we see.
  2. 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.
  3. Design a seed packet for one kind of flower. Include labels, pictures, and descriptions. Use words that would appeal to Miss Rumphius.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Check out this Learning to Give Toolkit about Humans and the Environment. Explore the toolkit for ways you can make the world more beautiful.


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