by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
[March 2020 | Reviewed By Sara Rinne]
One of the best things about spending my days in a bookstore is getting the chance to talk about books with lovely folks who come in. I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to anyone, but it never fails to delight me when a spontaneous book group bubbles out of the store. These conversations are my favorite when they yield recommendations from visitors for books to stock my shelves. The Lost Words: A Spell Book, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, is one such recommendation.
This book, simply put, is beautiful. It’s technically a children’s book, but I think book lovers of all ages will enjoy it. The premise, according to author Macfarlane, is that certain words, especially words that pertain to the natural world, are disappearing, not just from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, but from children’s vocabularies as well. Words like adder, bluebell, raven, willow, and wren are becoming lost. As Macfarlane said, these words “are no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”
What Macfarlane and Morris have created is part poetry collection, part work of art. Macfarlane has created an acrostic poem—a “spell,” as he calls—for each of these disappearing words. Accompanying his spells are gorgeous watercolor and mixed-media illustrations by Morris. The idea is to read the book aloud and conjure, through these spells, pictures of the natural world in the mind’s eye.
Did I mention this book is beautiful? It is a work of art in itself. First of all, it’s BIG. The format just begs to be opened on the floor where the reader can lay down in front of it. Morris’s illustrations perfectly render the natural subjects of each poem. But unlike Audubon’s perfect specimens, these creatures fly, swim, and crawl practically off the pages. The result is a joyful exploration of nature that can be savored slowly or, like I did, in a mad rush from beginning to end.
The Lost Words is available at Maggie’s Books. As spring begins and the world starts to wake up from the long winter, come take a look at this beautiful book and cast a spell of your own!