8 to adult
Pick up a copy of the Oxford Junior Dictionary and you’ll find the latest technological words like chatroom, blog and voicemail. But you won’t find acorn, buttercup, minnow, panther, and dozens of other natural world words that were cut to make room for the new entries. Robert MacFarlane noticed, and decided to do something. He collaborated with artist Jackie Morris to create what they call a “spell book” in a bid to conjure back 20 of the lost words. Both are British, and there is a decidedly British flavour to the book, celebrating childhood fascinations for conkers and brambles, newts and wrens, weasels and willows, though happily these are words equally familiar to Canadians and Americans, and doubtless in many other English-speaking places.
Each word is introduced with its letters emphasized within an alphabetical swirl, allowing children to discover the word by finding the letters. The next two-page spread features an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line spelling out the word, and the poem celebrating the word. Here’s an image from the book for the entry on Otter:
What follows is a luscious two-page spread showing an adorable pair of otters in water, intertwined and playful, inviting young readers to imagine seeing them in real life. All the art is rendered in rich watercolour and it’s gorgeous – an owl and fox in a field of bluebells is simply stunning; a heron flying past a full moon stirs the soul. Read this with a child, and linger over the words and images, and give thanks to its creators. It is at once a children’s picture book, a coffee table book of nature, a poetry book, and a book for adults to recall their own wild experiences with the ravens, kingfishers, conkers and magpies that are in my backyard too! My thanks to the Grand Forks & District Public Library for introducing me to this spectacular publication, brought to Canada by House of Anansi Press.
More discussion and reviews of this book: