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January 26, 2018

Picture Book Friday: The Lost Words

A bit of magic was delivered to our house this week with the arrival of The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris, which I first learned about via MacFarlane’s essay in The Guardian about how British children are losing the words to describe their country’s natural places. The Lost Words is a book about absence and things that are missing, this theme reflected in the title fonts with their missing pieces, and the two-page spreads in which an absence is shown by white space. The missing thing from each spread is shown on the next page in full colour illustration with an acrostic poem on the facing page, which sounds like the worst idea ever, but these poems are wonderful. “Rustle of grass, sudden susurrus, what/ the eye misses:/ For adder is as adder hisses.” And not poems, even, according to MacFarlane, but spells. “You hold in your hands a spell book for conjuring back these lost words,” he writes in a brief introduction. “To read it you will need to seek, find and speak.” And magic indeed are what these spells are—the one about the conker is absolutely perfect, about how it’s an object so magnificent (and isn’t it?) that it could not be manufactured. “…conker cannot be made,/ however you ask it, whatever word or tool you use,/ regardless of decree, Only one thing can conjure/ conker—and that thing is a tree.”


6 thoughts on “Picture Book Friday: The Lost Words”

  1. Jilanna says:

    My favourite stories and poems end in a way that is both surprising and inevitable. The line, “…as acorn is to wood” made my heart sing!

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes!! The whole book is just as delightful. Macfarlane claims he’s not a poet…but I am not so sure.

      1. Jilanna says:

        If not a poet, then a wizard!

        MacFarlane’s spell about the kingfisher appears elsewhere. Lines N, G, F are breathtaking, like watching the real thing.

        Off to order a copy from my local bookstore…

  2. JC Sutcliffe says:

    I’ve been wondering what this book is like. Thanks for the review!

  3. Beth Kaplan says:

    Ordered this book, gave it to my grandchildren for Christmas and later brought it back from their place – I will read it to them when they’re here, and in the meantime, I get to savour it.

    1. Kerry says:

      I love it!

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