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The Lost Words
by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris


"The Lost Words" by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris isn't a book with a traditional narrative. It's a collaborative work of art and activism, a beautiful and poignant response to the gradual disappearance of nature words from children's dictionaries.

The Premise:

The book was sparked by the removal of words like "acorn," "bluebell," "kingfisher," and "wren" from a popular children's dictionary. This act, justified by usage statistics, symbolized a growing disconnect between children and the natural world. Macfarlane and Morris saw this as a profound loss, fearing that without the language to articulate nature, children would be less likely to connect with it, appreciate it, and ultimately, fight for it.

The Structure and Content:

"The Lost Words" is structured like a spell book, aiming to conjure back the wonder and presence of these "lost" words. Each double-page spread features:

  • A "lost" word: Words like "Otter," "Bramble," "Willow," "Fern," etc., each given a prominent place on the page.
  • An acrostic "spell-poem": Macfarlane crafts evocative poems where the first letter of each line spells out the "lost" word. These poems are not mere definitions; they are lyrical celebrations of the word's essence, weaving together folklore, natural history, and sensory detail.
  • A stunning illustration: Morris's masterful illustrations are infused with magic and realism. They depict the natural world with breathtaking detail and vibrancy, further immersing the reader in the word's world.

The Impact and Legacy:

"The Lost Words" has become a phenomenon, resonating deeply with readers of all ages. It has sparked conversations about:

  • Nature deficit disorder: The book has drawn attention to the concerning trend of children spending less time outdoors and the potential consequences for their well-being and the future of environmentalism.
  • The power of language: It underscores how language shapes our understanding and relationship with the world, arguing that losing words for nature risks losing our connection to it.
  • The importance of art and activism: The book is a testament to the power of art to inspire, educate, and ignite social change.

"The Lost Words" isn't just a book; it's a movement. It has inspired countless projects, from outdoor classrooms to community readings, all dedicated to reconnecting people with the natural world and enriching their vocabulary with the language of nature.