Honourable Mentions: The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and of course, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.And I stopped nodding there, because that last title took me back.
I have no idea what year I discovered Miss Rumphius. It has pictures in it, so it couldn't have been later than about third grade, so maybe 1993-4 or thereabouts. (Nearly twenty years ago. God, where has the time gone?)
What I remember about it was the lupines. I think I knew the word as related to wolves, but I had no idea they were flowers too. Miss Rumphius taught me that they were, and that they came in at least three distinct colors, one of which was blue (and another I think purple, and a third a hue of pink whose name I forget now.) What I remember most, from that early age, was a sentimental sadness when Mom said (I think) that lupines don't usually grow down in Connecticut. I remember loving it enough that she or I acquired a copy, which if memory serves is still on the shelf at home.
That was twenty years ago, of course, and during those intervening twenty years the world has changed. Not always for the better, but this one case was an exception.
During our first year after the move, some lupines were in a wildflower seed blend our neighbors planted uphill. Hills and seeds and gravity being as they are, some of them moved down the hill, where they eventually settled in our backyard. Connecticut is still a bit outside their range, so they haven't flourished the way Miss Rumphius made them, but as of 2012 there are a dozen or so growing back there, varying annually based on humidity and weather.
The lupines in the backyard are small things, smaller than I remember them from Miss Rumphius. (Mom says that I'm never around when they actually come into bloom, so my mental image of them is probably skewed by that.) Low to the ground, or at least that's how I think of them; they have a very distinctive leaf pattern, which helps remind me not to run over them with the lawnmower. There have been blue ones and purplish ones, but to the best of my knowledge we've never had a pink-hue-whose-name-I-forget-now one. Although I've never thought about it until now, it's something that does bother me a little, as if that missing third color of lupine somehow invalidates the storybook.
Confession time: I still do not know what I will do to make the world a more beautiful place.