This is one of the most beautiful and magical books I have seen. Working from the premise that children, in our increasingly urbanised, society are losing the words for birds and plants, Robert Macfarlane has conjured up a book of spells to find and restore the lost words.
Although he says that he is not a poet, the language is lyrical and compelling. My favourite being the song of the Willow which is both mesmerising and sinister. The writer asks,
“Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow
O will you whisper while we listen so we learn what
Words your long leaves loosen?”
The Willow however, replies
“You will never know a word of willow for we are willow
And you are not.”
Nature may be beautiful but it has and will keep its secrets.
Illustrated on the next page, the darkness of the trees, the uneasy sky, all add depth to the perception of willows as trees linked with sadness and death.
Powerful as the words are, they are only part of the whole. Integral to the book are the illustrations, by Jackie Morris. Spaces where there should be pictures underline the theme of lost, letters are scattered through the pages to be followed by a glorious illustration of what has been found and restored.
The paintings alone are wondrous and together with the text create a book to keep and hand down through the generations.
My own copy has already acquired its own history. Visiting Bristol yesterday, I mentioned the book to my daughter. We then went to collect my granddaughter from school and Maddy came out clutching a copy of “The Lost Words” which she had brought for “show and tell.” Her mum hadn’t realised it was the book I had been talking about, which my son had sent her as a present for the whole family, but which had been annexed by Maddy, who is, of course the target audience.
Coming home, there was a large parcel from Amazon waiting for me in the hall. I knew I hadn’t sent off for anything recently and anonymous post is often a present from my bibliophile son. And yes, inside was my own copy of “The Lost Words.”
As well as the book, there will be an exhibition of the original paintings, so catch this if you can, at Compton Verney.
“The Lost Words Exhibition opens Saturday 21 October 2017
This enchanting exhibition combines the creative talents of writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris to celebrate the relationship between language and the living world, and nature’s power to spark imagination.
Featuring a series of immersive floor to ceiling graphics, family interpretation areas and recordings of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris reading the poems, The Lost Words experience continues beyond the gallery as visitors are invited to explore the words and themes of the exhibition via an interactive discovery trail through the grounds.
“I want The Lost Words to delight the mind and the eye and send children to sleep dreaming of wild things.” Jackie Morris
The Lost Words is curated by Compton Verney, with Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books.”
And a final reason to buy the book, if you need one, is that part of the royalties will go to Action for Conservation a charity dedicated to inspire young people to action for the natural world and the next generation of conservations.
So, to sum up, a beautiful book, a great exhibition, and helping to save and protect our environment.
With many thanks to David Miller.