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The Lost Words

Cover: 'The Lost Words'

Staff Review: "The Lost Words" by Robert Macfarlane, Jackie Morris


Words disappear from the English language over time. They fall gradually out of use, only to be replaced by a more modern vocabulary - or not at all. Surprisingly, the words "acorn" and "dandelion" were among forty words not included in a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary commonly used in schools. Words that were included, based on frequency of use, are words that describe technology, such as "blog" and "cut-and-paste."

In the foreword to this book of poems, Robert Macfarlane writes: “You hold in your hands a spellbook for conjuring back these lost words.” It may sound a bit strong, but one way that we can hold onto words is through use. Each acrostic poem presented in the book acts as a sort of dictionary entry describing and defining the nature of a plant or creature. The fern flares and fans; the long-legged heron hunts and is a “grey-winged weapon,” “stone still”; the weasel “acts on land like spark on tinder.”

With enormous, brilliant illustrations by Jackie Morris, this book celebrates 20 words that describe nature. Read these poems out loud, enjoy the illustrations, and look for these things in your own surroundings. I also recommend its smaller companion book  The Lost Spells.

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction, poetry

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