Miss Rumphius


  • Title: Miss Rumphius
  • Author and Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
  • Published: 1982
  • Main Characters: Miss Rumphius. Miss Rumphius’s grandfather, Miss Rumphius’s great niece Alice.

 Synopsis of the Story: The story is told through the eyes of young Alice, the great niece of Miss Alice Rumphius. Alice relates how her great aunt, Miss Rumphius grew up in a town by the sea. Miss Rumphius used to visit her grandfather’s art studio where he painted. Her grandfather had come to the town where they now lived many years ago on a big ship. In the evenings Miss Rumphius’s grandfather would sit her on his knee and tell of her of the grand adventures he had experienced when he was sailing around the world. Greatly influenced by her grandfather’s spirit of discovery Miss Rumphius declared:

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

What Alice’s grandfather told her next was to stay with her the rest of her life:

“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice?

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

Though Alice paid heed to her grandfather’s advice she did not know what she could do to make the world more beautiful.

Miss Rumphius gradually grew up to be a young woman. She worked in a library in a big city, helping people to find books. The library contained books that spoke of faraway places. But she was impatient to see the world with her own eyes. Miss Rumphius travelled far and wide: she climbed to the top of snow-clad mountains, to tropical isles, though jungles and across deserts. Finally she arrived at the land of the Lotus-Eaters and it was here that Miss Rumphius hurt her back while dismounting from a camel.

Miss Rumphius decided that she had travelled enough and that it was time for her to find a place to live beside the sea.

Miss Rumphius found herself a house by the sea. From her porch she could see the sun rising and setting in all its glory. Beside the rocky ground in her garden, Miss Rumphius planted some flower seeds. But she realized she still had one task to complete in her life: that of making the world more beautiful.

That spring Miss Rumphius, who was growing older was taken quite ill. From her bedroom window, she could look upon the cheery sight of the lupines she had planted in the previous summer.

Miss Rumphius made a note to herself to plant more lupines that summer but her health prevented it.

The next spring Miss Rumphius was recovered but she regretted the fact that she had not been able to plant lupines the previous summer. While Miss Rumphius was walking she discovered with great joy a patch of lupines that were growing in a spot a little distance away from her house. Miss Rumphius realized that the birds and wind must have carried the seeds to a distant place and planted them.

It was then that Miss Rumphius had the wonderful idea of planting lupine seeds far and wide across the neighbouring countryside that summer.

The next spring there were lupines growing everywhere and their cheery sight made all the people so very happy to see them.

At long last Miss Rumphius had complete the third and most difficult task of all.

Little Alice, Miss Rumphius’s niece was also inspired to travel to far away places like her great-aunt and also live by the sea.

Needless to say that Miss Rumphius advised her that she must also do a third and very important thing…but little Alice does not know yet how she will fulfill this task.

Notes: This story with its gorgeous acrylic painted illustrations and sweet story line with an important moral are a joy to behold for children and adults alike. I will let the illustrations speak for themselves!



November, 2015 Book Wrap Up


Here is a round up of book related favourites for the month of November, 2015. For a glimpse into October, 2015’s Bookish Favourites please see here.

1. Books

 I  read a total of seven books in November. Two of these books, Emily of New Moon and Little House on the Prairie were part of the #ReadKidsLit read along .

1) Emily of New Moon (4/5*) by LM Montgomery. This is the heartwarming tale of a young motherless girl called Emily who has recently lost her beloved father. Emily’s mother’s side of the family draw lots to decide who will have the responsibility of taking care of the young child. Emily goes to stay with her strict Aunt Elizabeth, loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy at the idyllic location of New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island. Despite her immense sense of loss, Emily draws comfort from her beautiful surroundings, the friendships she makes at every turn and ultimately her new family.For a full review see here.

2) Martha, Eric and George (4/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is the third book in Margery Sharp’s ‘Martha’ trilogy. In this book we follow the lives of Martha, Eric and George a decade after where ‘Martha in Paris’ left us. We learn of George’s upbringing in the hands of his grandmother, of Eric’s disillusionment at being unable to progress in both the personal and professional spheres of his life and of Martha’s tremendous success as an independent artist. Martha’s success prompts her to show her paintings at an exhibition in Paris. In Paris, Martha, Eric and George meet one another and this book deals with the circumstances and repercussions of the meeting between a mother and a child who have been distanced for a decade.

3) They Were Sisters (4.5/5*) by Dorothy Whipple. Three sisters marry three very different men. Lucy, the eldest is happily married to William. Charlotte, is besotted with Geoffrey who is a cruel, dominating husband and Vera, the beautiful youngest sister marries caring, wealthy Brian, whom she marries for  security. The story deals with the fact that choosing a life partner can have far-reaching consequences, and that this decision can dictate to a large extent a person’s individual happiness and the happiness of their families.Whipple delivers a masterful plot and powerful cast of characters. She creates extraordinary drama and turbulence within the boundaries of everyday domestic occurrences. For a full review see here.

4) Little House on the Prairie (4/5*) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This story recounts the brave migration of a small family of five, on a small cart and horse laden with all their worldly possessions from the Woods of Wisconsin to the heart of the MidWest. It also describes the trials and difficulties of setting up house as a pioneer family in a land inhabited by wild animals, and unknown dangers, a land they must share with the Native American people.

5) Illyrian Spring (4.5/5*) by Ann Bridge. This book is a part travelogue, part love story set in 1930’s Croatia, along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast. World-renowned artist, thirty-eight year old Lady Kilmachael, the wife of an eminent economist and mother to three grown-up children, leaves her family and all that she holds dear and escapes to Venice and Croatia’s remote Dalmatian Coast. She fears for her marriage, suspecting her husband of embarking on a possible affair and also is saddened by the strained relationship she has with her daughter. In Venice she meets a disillusioned young man, Nicholas, a man on the verge of being coerced into an architectural career by his parents but desperately yearning to paint. By chance, Grace and Nicholas find themselves on the same cruise to the Dalmatian Coast. Grace is persuaded to guide and train Nicholas in his artistic endeavours and together they spend several idyllic weeks together painting and enjoying each other’s company. However, when young Nicholas falls in love with Grace, she finds she must choose between following her better judgement or her heart.

6) Family Roundabout (4.5/5*) by  Richmal Crompton. This Persephone book looks at the complex relationship between two neighboring families, the Fowlers and the Willoughbys,  whose outlooks on life, are on one hand in opposition to one another, but on the other hand, find their paths unavoidably intertwined. Both the matriarch’s of the families, keep a close eye on the fates of their beloved families, but employ different styles. Mrs Willoughby, has control of the family fortune, and dictates the actions of her family members by way of controlling the money she bestows upon them. Benevolent Mrs Fowler, watches silently, as her children fall in and out of their individual problems. Most of her children appeal for her help when they require it. But despite, however, much the mothers’ try to resolve their children’s problems, new troubles, recur in cyclical events, almost like a roundabout.

7) The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. In this vintage crime fiction novel, a large family gathers together in their large family home, in the country during the Christmas season. The head of the family, wealthy Sir Osmond Melbury, is found dead on Christmas Day by a guest, dressed up as Santa Klaus. Everyone in the house has a motive for committing the murder except Santa Klaus himself. However, Santa Klaus is the only person, in the entire house, with the opportunity, or so it would seem…

2. Blogposts

 I published eight blogposts excluding this round-up post this month. Three were reviews of children’s books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham and Madeline. The rest included reviews of the books-  Martha in Paris, They Were Sisters, Emily of New Moon and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. I also published The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life.

I wrote a blogpost for Budgettraveller.org describing Fifteen Books that Made me Fall in Love with Europe. In doing so I was able to read and re-read a number of delightful travelogues.

3. Movies

We watched Jim Carrey’s ‘A Christmas Carol‘. This is such a delightful movie to watch around the festive season! The special effects are just magical and conjure a beautiful image of Dickensian London during yuletide. We also watched ‘Cheerful Weather for the Wedding‘. I saw the film soon after reading the book by Julia Strachey. As a consequence the dialogues in the book were fresh in my mind and were not faithfully repeated in the screenplay. This rather disappointed me, but if watched independently of the book, this is not a bad film. We also commenced watching Season 1, part 2 of the dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s  ‘Outlander’ series. There is so much drama in this series and very entertaining to follow.

4. Audiobooks

 I listened to the excellent BBC dramatization of Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’ on BBC radio this month. I am also slowly listening to the BBC dramatization of CS Lewis’s excellent Narnia novels. Starting with ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. I also was quite interested in the discussion about Jane Austen’s Emma in an episode of ‘In Our Time‘ hosted by Melvyn Bragg.

5. Miscellaneous

 I indulged in purchasing a few audiobooks this month. These include a series of readings from Anthony Trollope‘s Barsetshire  novels. I also have the recording for  ‘War and Peace‘ at hand. I hope to embark on a reading challenge of sorts next year, centered around either one of these books.

I did a few paintings for my art journal on Instagram. You cnd some examples below.

6. Next Month

Next month I hope to make a dent in my TBR pile. Books that I am looking at are the Mystery in White, Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge and the illustrated copy of Harry Potter.

Wish you all a happy and bookish, festive December!

Please tell me what you have been reading this month?



‘We’re of to see the Lizard, the wonderful Lizard of Oz’ and a Library Haul from Week 23 of 2015


I never grew up watching the Wizard of Oz although I did read the book or its abridged version at least. Neither do I recall watching many of the popular Disney movies. This just may be my poor memory. I was always more interested in reading books….deriving a first-hand experience of a story…figuring out the dramatization in my imagination rather than have it delivered to me by an on-screen production.

The first decade or so of my life was spent in England during the 1980s.  I recall watching cartoons on television. The old fashioned ones with a mouse and a cat. Inspector Gadget… Scooby Doo…Fraggle Rock… Postman Pat…the Muppet Show. Basically we watched whatever was shown on television. Somehow, Dorothy, the Emerald City and the sparkling red shoes escaped my attention.

Still despite this fact, it is hard not to be aware of the story… The Wizard of Oz, the book and the movie have forever sparked the popular imagination.

When you have children you are allowed to live a second childhood of sorts. You are permitted to watch all the movies you missed as a child… to indulge your adult curiosity with childlike fancies. To pretend that you have ordered the Wizard of Oz to ‘educate’ your child when you want to watch it yourself with undiluted attention and evaluate it as an adult.

The Wizard of Oz unfailingly delivers. There is something very captivating about the story. Despite not being as visually stunning as the modern productions, the songs, the story, the unique characters created by L. Frank Baum make this a movie worthy of re-watching.

We will definitely not forget this movie especially as my three year old has created a memorable spin-off of the title tune , quite unintentionally…

We’re off to see the lizard, the wonderful lizard of Oz

She will thank me later for posting this on the Internet  I think!

Also pictured in the library haul:

1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die: this is a lovely coffee table book to leaf through. Mostly filled with beautiful snapshots of enviable gardens.

Watercolor Landscapes: this book is an excellent primer, teaching you how to convert a very ordinary natural landscape to a beautiful watercolor. The trick mostly lies in visually editing out unnecessary elements that do not add to the romantic appeal of a scene. Like signposts, electric cables, rundown cars by the wayside etcetera.

50 Shades of Grey: the less said about this the better. I wish I had spent those two hours doing something else…

The Theory of Everything: haven’t watched this one yet but can’t wait to see it.

Goodnight Moon: This may be the second or third time we have borrowed this from the library. I love the visual effects in this story. How the depicted bedroom and its interiors transition from light… to dark…to sleep and inaction.

Have a happy week dear readers. Can’t wait to do some reading this weekend.

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

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Title: Whistle for Willie

Author and Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats

Published: 1964

Main Characters: Peter, his Mother and Father, Willie the dog.

Short Synopsis of the Story: Peter wishes he could whistle. He wants to learn how to whistle so that he can call his beloved dog named Willie. He tries and tries different ways to whistle but no sound comes out from his lips. He goes home and tries on his Father’s hat and then tries to whistle again but even that fails. Peter hides in a cardboard carton that he finds in the street and tries to whistle yet again and this time a whistle is heard! Peter’s dog Willie rushes towards him and responds to the whistle.Later on, Peter’s mother asks Peter to run an errand for her. Peter whistles all the way there and back followed by faithful Willie.

Favorite Part of the Story:  The story is such a simple one. The images are very striking and are drawn with sweeping, colorful brushstrokes that immediately conjure a lively image of city life. We are immediately drawn by the pictures to a young boy’s visualization of his place in a busy city. The story teaches us of the importance of persistence and determination but this is done in such a subtle way that we do not feel that the story is overly moralistic. The way Peter puts his Father’s hat on and feels that this would magically conjure up his whistling powers made me smile. Lastly, the love between a small boy and his dog are endearing.

Library Haul-Week Thirteen -2015

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Week 13 is the week that Spring was supposed to arrive. Instead we had snow in Massachusetts. Admittedly, not knee deep, masses and masses of snow. But enough snow to remind us that the idyllic springtime picture of daffodils, violets, cherry blossom, green buds on trees and chirping birds was a far cry away. On a positive note, cold temperatures are conducive to staying indoors and enjoying books and movies.

We brought home books for Little M- namely The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and video content in the form of Bambi. This was a re-watch, clearly Little M liked this movie enough to want to see it again.

For me this week was hit and miss- I followed up my recent reading of Christianna Brand’s wonderful mystery novel ‘Green for Danger’ with its Criterion Collection movie counterpart. As (nearly) always the movie failed to live up to the original book. One of the major problems was that the book was still very fresh in my memory- I remembered all the subtle nuances of plot and had already even etched out how the characters looked in my mind. One of the major characters had been omitted and also a major love story completely wiped away and this thoroughly upset me. Do read the original book if you get a chance and have an inclination for reading crime fiction. I loved the book so much that I even painted the cover in my journal.

‘Nightingale Wood’ by Stella Gibbons was a beautiful, 1930s Cinderella story told to perfection. Read the full book review here. Cannot wait to read EVERYTHING else by her starting with Cold Comfort Farm. I will leave you this week with an attempt at sketching the cover of Green for Danger in my journal. Cheerio!


The Day the Crayons Quit

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Title: The Day the Crayons Quit

Author: Drew Daywalt

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Published: 2013

Main Characters: Duncan, The different colored crayons.

Short Synopsis of the Story: One day during class, Duncan goes to opens his crayons and discovers a stack of letters with his name written on them. Each of his crayons has written him an individual letter airing their grievances regarding Duncans usage of that particular crayon. Duncan in an effort to please each and everyone of his crayons draws a beautiful picture incorporating all the colors of his crayons.

Favorite Part of the Story: The beautiful picture drawn in crayons at the end of the book is perhaps the highlight of the story. All the colored crayons mentioned in the previous pages makes a special contribution to the picture which is characterized by wild animals, sea creatures, boats, wizards, locomotives, and even a special appearance from Santa Clause himself! Of special interest are the green sea, the yellow sky, orange whale and other anomalously colored entities.

My three year old listened with fascination to the individual stories each of the crayons had to tell, the descriptions and pictures of the characteristic objects that the particular crayon in question is used to illustrate. For example red  is used to draw apples, strawberries, fire engines and Santa’s costume.

It is a nice lesson in color for small children, and a visual treat for children and adults.

Moreover, it reminds us that artistic creativity knows no boundaries. We have the artistic license to paint green seas, orange whales and pink sea monsters.

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

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Little M and I are working our way slowly but steadily though the Time Magazine’s Top 100 books for Children. We particularly enjoyed Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban.

Title: Bread and Jam for Frances

Author: Russell Hoban

Illustrator: Lillian Hoban

Published: 1986

Main Characters: Frances (the Badger), Mother Badger, Father Badger, baby sister Gloria and schoolfriend Albert.

Short Synopsis of Story: Frances the Badger is a picky eater. When her Mother gives her eggs for breakfast she chooses to eat her favourite food- bread and jam instead. She prefers to eat the same for dinner that night in lieu of breaded veal cutlets with string beans and baked potatoes. In fact, Frances is so in love with bread and jam that she exchanges her school lunch of chicken salad sandwich for bread and jam.

Her parents decide to teach her a lesson. The next day for breakfast, lunch and dinner Frances is given nothing but bread and jam. Faced with no alternative Frances comes to the conclusion that although she loves bread and jam she does not want to eat it at every meal.

The turning point comes when at dinner that night Frances cries and asks for spaghetti and meatballs instead of bread and jam.

Favourite Part of the Story: The illustrations in this book are just adorable. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of food in this story. Especially the section where Frances’s friend Albert unpacks his elaborate lunch at his school desk and eats every part of it with great relish.

He took a bite of sandwich, a bite of pickle, a bite of hardboiled egg, and a drink of milk. Then he sprinkled more salt on the egg and went around again… He ate his bunch of grapes and his tangerine…He set the cup custard in the middle of the napkin on his desk… He shut his lunch box, put it back inside his desk, and sighed. “I like to have a good lunch,” said Albert.

Conclusion: My three year old loved the story and kept pointing to the pictures asking to hear about the food descriptions again and again. Four out of five stars.