In a slight deviation from my usual reviews, I’ve turned to The Lost Words – a book billed as containing spells of nature. From the moment I even heard about this book, I knew it was going to end up on my bookshelf. Once read, I was in no doubt it would be one to be reviewed on the site.
The premise of the book is simple. Children are increasingly using technology in their daily lives and in the process shunning the natural world around them. As a result, their vocabulary is also changing. Words such as selfie, broadband and app are commonplace, yet longstanding words are slipping out of fashion. Words that we take a granted, like adder and kingfisher, rarely appear in a child’s speech or writing. These are words that conjure up images of Britain and of childhood’s well-spent. For many, the decline in children engaging with the natural world is a worrying sign.
With this book, MacFarlane and Morris try to reverse that trend. This is a book of spells of nature. Each one focused on a word from nature that is disappearing from our every day language. Among them you’ll find Bramble, Dandelion, and Acorn. These spells alone would make an interesting book; however, this book is so much more.
Enter artist Jackie Morris. With each spell comes three exquisite illustrations, made clearer thanks to the imposing size of each page. The real magic of this book lies within the interplay between words and pictures. They go hand-in-hand with each other. They compliment each other. They strengthen each other. They bring each other alive. Combined they create one of the most beautiful books of the year.
Such beauty comes at a price though. A price tag of £20 puts this book out of sight of many children. Those who would benefit most are unlikely to spend such an amount on a single book. It becomes an indulgence for book lovers such as myself and those of us who love words for what they are. I just hope that enough schools take the plunge so they awaken their children’s sense of nature with this book.
It’s safe to say, I’m under the spell of this book. I fell in love instantly. It now takes pride of place in my classroom. Every day, I want to read it. So too do the children. I have already seen bramble used in a child’s writing. As an adult, I’m also looking around for a few extra seconds on the dog walk, just in case I see a goldfinch flutter by. As such, it achieves exactly what it has set out to.
Age Recommendation: Anyone
Pages: 128 pages
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton