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Picturing a World

Book and illustration (4): Lost Words

Jackie Morris's superb paintings and Robert MacFarlane's intriguing "spells" combine in The Lost Words to make a book that is greater than the sum of its equally splendid parts. You would treasure a print of any of the pictures; you might memorize one of the clever acrostic verses (spells as MacFarlane punningly calls them) to chant against the evils of our days. Together with the book's size, depth of color printing, and lovely page design (including a set of puzzles that delight once you figure out what they are doing), they combine into a classic.


 The book came about when MacFarlane became aware that the 2012 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary omitted many words pertaining to the natural world to make room for terms like chat room. Restoring them to the awareness of elementary school students through this book was his and Morris's response. And what a response! For each word (e.g., acorn or heron), MacFarlane wrote verse that captures the meaning of the word and reflects something of its texture or movement. Morris painted extraordinary double-page spreads, three to a word.
The links will take you to more information about and images from the book. Here I'll quote the opening and close of one of my favorite poems (you'll see why):
Bramble is on the march again,
Rolling and arching along the hedges, into parks on the city edges.
Little shoots steal through keyholes, to leave —in quiet halls,
Empty stairwells—bowls of bright blackberries where the light falls.

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