Monday, 22 January 2018

the lost words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

I'm kicking off this year with 'the lost words' by writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris. It was one of my Christmas presents from my husband and I have to say (alongside my microplane grater!) it's one of my favourites.

This is a sublimely beautiful and thoughtful book and I love the story behind the creation of it. You can read about it on Jackie Morris's blog here. In a nutshell the discovery that the Oxford Junior Dictionary was removing words such as otter, kingfisher and willow sparked an outcry and a petition was started by writers and naturalists. The reason behind the removal of these words was that they were slipping out of common usage, hence the title 'the lost words'.

I have to admit that when I first looked at this book in a bookshop I thumbed through it and didn't understand the whole concept behind it. But when I settled down on the sofa and properly looked at it, I completely fell in love. And later on when I read it with my children (five and eight) we had a lovely time together reading and sharing it. My eight year old really enjoyed reading the poems out to us both.

It's a big book and sumptuously made, with gold lettering. Because it's so large, it really allows space for the artwork to shine. It picks out a word on a double page, these are the 'spell' pages (it's called 'A spell book' in the sub-title). The following page has a poem about the word and the next page features a full magnificent double page illustration. So each word has six pages in total dedicated to it. The lost words are: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker, dandelion, fern, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, magpie, newt, otter, raven, starling, weasel, willow and wren.

The poems are little works of art in their own right, each one unique and evocative of the word they are describing. The magpie one which ends 'Every Magpie for Every Magpie against Every Other Walking Flying Swimming Creeping Creature on the Earth!' makes me chuckle every time. And the 'Rooftop riprap street-smart hip-hop of starling song' is just wonderful to read aloud.

There is a great interview from Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris on the Penguin blog which delves into a little more detail about making the book and how the cover was designed. There is also a current exhibition displaying the artwork and poems at the Foundling Museum in London.

There is a campaign being organised to get this book into every school in Scotland and I heartily hope that it gathers momentum and becomes the whole of the UK because this is an important book which deserves to be shared. Go and buy it! Preferably from a real life bookshop.

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