my favorite book of all time

May 15th, 2012

Because it is utterly, totally true.


Yesterday someone sent me a gift that proves it: wildflowers grow in profusion where you least expect them. And that brought me back to this treasure book, one that is so intimately meaningful that if I could, I would plant it in everyone’s home with a carefree toss from my open hand.

A gift to my baby when she was barely born, from a faithful and nearly lifelong friend, this book delivered a set of emphatic instructions for my own life.

Miss Rumphius
Story and Pictures by Barbara Cooney

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” I ask.

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

“All right,” I say.

But I do not know yet what that can be.

My goodness! All the passion and discovery, all the trial and error, all the heart and truth and promise in that simple “I do not know.” It is my wish and recommendation for you.

This post originally ran as part of a series on children’s books. Other recommendations are found here, here, and here.


  1. i almost bought this one at the library book sale last month, but decided to wait until next year to read it to satch. it IS really beautiful! xo

    Comment by Wendy — October 20, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  2. oh this is certainly a favourite around here!
    once, while my father was up visiting he read it to my daughter at bedtime. he came downstairs afterward and commented on what a beautiful book it was and how he thought he should scatter some lupines in the field behind his home.
    our next visit we arrived home with a bag full of seeds…and they set about on a little adventure just the two of them 😉

    Comment by Kirsten Michelle — October 20, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  3. Oh that sounds wonderful. I’m enjoying my son’s books so much, and whenever I’m in the bookstore, I am beginning to enjoy browsing the children’s section more than the adult section!

    Also – thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of some good apple recipes!

    Comment by Shelli — October 20, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  4. I was looking for a book for a newborn to stick in the basket this sounds wonderful!!!! Thanks!

    Comment by Cat — October 20, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

  5. Oh, I love this one! Those lupins!

    Comment by Jena Strong — October 20, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

  6. Thanks for these recommendations…I live in a literary black hole (well, for English books anyway) so am always appreciative of good tips on meaningful books for the kiddies.

    And thank goodness for!

    Comment by Lana — October 20, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  7. Another one to check out is Hope For the Flowers. A story of caterpillars turning into butterflies. Beautiful. I photocopied a few pages of it to paste into my reading journal and comment on how applicable its truths are to my life as an adult, seeking to crawl into a cocoon and emerge and the butterfly I was born to be.

    Comment by GailNHB — October 21, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  8. this is one of our/my favorites as well.

    Comment by ladybug-zen — October 23, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  9. This is one of my very favorites, too. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — May 15, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  10. Oh! It’s my favorite too! I had once lamented about bein ga terrible mother – “Do I ever remember to tell my children those things? No (of course, never, ever!) I am too busy doing mountains of laundry, making sure no one dives off the roof and eats something green once in awhile.” And my wise friend pointed out – “it was her Aunt who said it.” Ahhhhhh…yes…aunts, uncles, grandparents – takes all of us…

    Comment by LeeAnn — May 15, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  11. This actually is one of my favorite books, too! I had to give a talk on a retreat weekend about what an ideal was and setting an ideal for yourself in your life, and I used this book as an illustration of what an ideal could be.

    Comment by Wylie — May 15, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  12. I have never read this book … but i really loved the beautiful message contained in those few lines you have taken from it.At times we are so busy running behind the material pleasures in our life that we forget the real pleasure of contributing something beautiful this world.

    Comment by Renuka — May 15, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  13. I had never heard of this book, but we’ll be reading it soon.
    Recommendations: Ferdinand, The Little House, Grandpa Green.

    Comment by Laura — May 16, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  14. We loved Miss Rumphius! It was our birthday gift of choice to friends, along with a package of lupine seeds. Thanks for rekindling the memory.

    Comment by debra — May 16, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  15. Ooh this is new to me! I already love the cover. Thanks…

    Comment by Bobbi — May 18, 2012 @ 6:31 am

  16. […] of summer around the corner? How am I called to make the world more beautiful? You must see the origins of this question from one of my favorite bloggers Karen Maezen Miller. Inner […]

    Pingback by More Beauty | Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis — May 24, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  17. love love love this book, brings back memories of playing for hours in the yard.

    Comment by Linda — June 3, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

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