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Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results (#19)

#19: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982)
67 points (#1, #3, #5, #6, #10, #1, #1, #8, #4, #8, #7)

Because I want my life to be summed up by seeing the world, coming home to live by the sea, and doing something to make the world more beautiful. – Jacqui Robbins

Leaving a legacy of beauty for those that come after you. A quiet story that when read at bedtime will invoke pleasant dreams and plant seeds of thought. What can I do? – Linda Kranz

I want to be just like her when I grow up. I want to travel places, bring books to people and make the world a better place. Alice is my hero. – Sharon Hrycewicz

Was there ever any question that the Top 20 picture books would consist of titles that were deeply beloved?  Never.  But I admit to you that Miss Rumphius was a surprise to me.  Yet if the quotes above are any indication (and they are just a sample of the quotes that were sent to me regarding this book) Cooney’s classic is very near and very dear to people’s hearts.

From the B&N plot synopsis: "As a child, Miss Rumphius dreams of traveling to faraway places. Her grandfather assures her that this is possible, but also advises her to do something to make the world more beautiful. As an old lady, Miss Rumphius returns to her home by the sea, but realizes she has yet to fulfill her grandfather’s wish. Inspired by her garden, Miss Rumphius creates a world of loveliness for those who live nearby."

Eric Carpenter, who has been kind enough to track the results of these postings and add them to his spreadsheet, noted recently that there hadn’t been a title yet that had garnered more than two #1 votes from my readers.  Look at the results up above, however, and you will see that three people gave Miss Rumphius their #1 love, with many of their fellows in the field coming close.

Now according to Ms. Cooney’s obituary, found on Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site, "Barbara Cooney was born in Room 1127 of the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn, New York in 1917 . . . ‘Of all the books I have done,’ she says, ‘Miss Rumphius (Viking, 1982), Island Boy (Viking, 1988), and Hattie and the Wild Waves (Viking, 1990), are the closest to my heart. These three are as near as I ever will come to an autobiography. There are, of course, many dissimilarities between me and Alice Rumphius, but, as I worked, she gradually seemed to become my alter ego. Perhaps she had been that right from the start.’  Barbara Cooney took her adopted state of Maine to her heart and Maine returned the affection. In 1989, the Maine Library Association created the Lupine Award, named for Miss Rumphius, to recognize outstanding children’s books by state residents or to honor authors whose chosen subjects were about Maine. Their opening ceremony honored Miss Rumphius and its creator."

Miss Rumphius
also happened to win the American Book Sellers National Book Award in 1983.  So well done there.

And for the record, while you may find plenty of children’s literary blogs that make allusions to Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and other classics The Miss Rumphius Effect is one of the biggies out there that credits this book and this book alone in its title.  A delightful choice. 

Previous Top 100 Picture Book Posts include:

















About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. L Cashin says:

    I thought Miss Rumphius would make it to the Top 10. The list in my head had it at number 2 or 3. It’s dear to me and an exceptional picture book as well.But then, my number 1 was More, More, More said the Baby!This whole endeavor is just wonderful — thanks Betsy!

  2. Amy Kraft says:

    I can’t believe there’s a book in the top 20 I’ve never heard of! Clearly this is a major oversight on my part that must be corrected immediately…

  3. Finally, one of my favorites makes the list. Either I am extremely conventional or totally out there. Just seeing the cover of this one makes me smile.

  4. KHazelrigg says:

    How can you not love a book that encourages kids to make the world a more beautiful place?

  5. I’ve been waiting for this one!

  6. Tricia (Miss Rumphius) says:

    Woohoo! I too have been waiting for this one. While I never submitted my list, Miss Rumphius was second only to Harry the Dirty Dog.