THE LOST WORDS by Robert Macfarlane


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Age Range: 10 & up
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An oversized album compiled in response to the recent omission by the Oxford Junior Dictionary of many natural-science words, including several common European bird, plant, and animal species, in favor of more current technological terms.

In his introduction, Macfarlane laments this loss, announcing his intention to create “a spellbook for conjuring back these lost words.” Each lost word is afforded three double-page spreads. First, the letters of each lost word are sprinkled randomly among other letters and an impressionistic sketch in a visual puzzle. This is followed by an acrostic poem or riddle describing essential qualities of the object, accompanied by a close-up view. A two-page spread depicting the object in context follows. Morris’ strong, dynamic watercolors are a pleasure to look at, accurate in every detail, vibrant and full of life. The book is beautifully produced and executed, but anyone looking for definitions of the “lost words” will be disappointed. The acrostic poems are subjective, sophisticated impressions of the birds and animals depicted, redolent with alliteration and wordplay, perhaps more appropriate for creative writing prompts than for science exploration. This book is firmly rooted in the English countryside, celebrating such words as “conker,” “bramble,” and “starling” (invasive in North America), but many will cross over for North American readers. A free “Explorer’s Guide” is available online.

A sumptuous, nostalgic ode to a disappearing landscape. (Picture book/poetry. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4870-0538-2
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Anansi Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2018


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