Described as the little sister of their previous The Lost Words, this new book by that super-talented pair Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris is every bit as good – a book about spells that succeeds in being spell-binding in its own right. Morris has always been a peerless illustrator of wild-life, and Macfarlane must now be recognised as a major poet. His descriptions of nature reach back into folklore while remaining open to modern comparisons, be they the high caw of a jackdaw ‘cutting like a hacksaw,’ swifts described as ‘handbrake-turners’ or how the egret ‘out-gleams ice, out-flares dynamite and meteorite.’ He also takes on trees, wild flowers, moths and insects, each poem sharing space with Jackie Morris’s luminously colourful paintings.
The Lost Words can now be found in the majority of primary schools and all hospices, thanks to the generosity of community campaigns backed up by crowd-funding. This book cries out for the same inspired promotion. Smaller size this time and beautifully produced, firmly bound and printed on glossy paper that brings out to the detail of Morris’s work to perfection, it already feels like a true classic. Books celebrating wild-life tend quite properly to issue warnings about its survival at the same time. But the birds, flowers, insects and trees described and illustrated here all come over as tough survivors, glorying in their freedom and propelled by a logic older than humans. Buy one copy for yourself and any others for as many children as you can afford. Neither party should regret it.