Reclaiming Lost Words
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children.” So begins the most magical book I have ever had the delight to hold in my hands and read.
In 2007 the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped fifty words used to describe the natural world in favor of words tethered to computer desks: post, analog, upload. A decade later, author Robert Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris set out to return to us twenty of these lost words, among them acorn, adder, fern, heather, raven, bluebells, otter.” Their collaboration resulted in The Lost Words, a “spellbook for conjuring back these lost words.”
Oversized (11″ x 15″), liberally graced with gold type and artwork so sumptuous I can’t stop sighing, The Lost Words is indeed a spellbook. Some spells are brief and clever, others are brilliantly complicated. Mr. Macfarlane’s wordplay steals the breath: “Kingfisher: the colour-giver, fire-bringer, flame-flicker, river’s quiver.” Ms. Morris’ illustrations are so evocative you can hear the mourning doves cooing to one another.
If you buy no other book this year, or for the rest of your life (Heaven forbid!) The Lost Words must be it. Of course, magic begets magic and there are now two more books to savor — Spell Songs, a musical companion to The Lost Words (CD included) and the duo’s latest, The Lost Spells.
If you order The Lost Words and love it as much as I do, let’s talk spells. Which is your favorite?