If you love delving into books that are full of beautifully crafted words and illustrations then this one is for you! Although this is not an instructional 'how to watercolour' book, it does provide you with lots of inspiration in the form of wonderful watercolour illustrations by the very talented Jackie Morris.
I discovered this book on one of my many visits to the National Trust. I don't know about you, but if I come out empty handed from one of their gift shops then something has gone awry! Finding this book was like finding a lost treasure ~ not just because some of the beautiful illustrations are offset by the richness of gold leaf (a common feature in many of Morris' works), but also because within its pages a wealth of nature's bounty can be found.
This brilliant collaboration is exquisitely illustrated by the wonderful Jackie Morris and written by the oh so poetic Robert Macfarlane. Once you take a peek inside, it's not hard to see why it has won The Beautiful Book Award 2017, the Children's Book of the Year 2018 and the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2017. The sheer size of the book makes it feel special as though you are about to open it and discover a new world. In fact what you discover on every page is our world.
Each illustration and accompanying 'spell' shines a light on nature. From the humble dandelion to the magical otter, this book celebrates their place and seeks to reconnect these lost words of nature with children who no longer connect with the wonder that is the natural world.
With the days of the nature table having long been replaced with the laptop trolley, McFarlane set out to fill the void, to engage children, to inspire children to nurture nature, to strengthen our connection and understanding of our place in nature and the need to recognise it, witness it and ultimately care for it.
Although conceived and written to engage children with our natural world, this book spans the generations and has something for everyone. Called a book of 'spells' its pages and words are, indeed, enchanting ~ MacFarlane weaves his words conjuring up the magic that is nature. Morris simultaneously brings the words to life in sumptuous, full page watercolour illustrations. Each word has a dedicated portrait, which is followed up with a magnificent double page watercolour that creates a setting and a narrative for each subject.
These double page illustrations are so breathtaking you can get lost in them. Each time you look at them you can discover new elements and spy missed creatures hiding in the landscape. These creatures, hidden in plain sight mimic the occasions where we might miss nature happening right in front of our eyes as we single-mindedly rush around. The book serves as a good reminder, that if we stop and look around us these lost treasures can still be found ~ the heron hiding amongst the reeds, a jewelled beetle inside a flower, a sparrow nestled in the hedg...tiny miracles of nature waiting to be discovered.
Having a background in graphic design, I also marvel at the double pages where typography has been intertwined with simple illustrations. Each double page is given over to a single name, which is carefully placed and positioned.
The space around the letters and illustrations being as important to the composition as are the details. The name of each subject appears hidden within the jumble of letters and the image of the subject is not seen, but suggested. Sometimes as a simplified, ghost of a line drawing, a negative shape or even an illustrative nod to the individual characteristics of the missing creature. Find the letters, spell out the word, find the missing subjects, turn the page and as if by magic they appear!
This beautiful book is definitely one you will need to make room for ~ in more ways than one, as it stands at a whopping 37.5 cm tall x 27.5 cm wide! There is absolutely nothing to fault here, from its premise, to its poetry, typography, illustration and print quality ~ each aspect is a joy. If you see this book in real life, hold it, open it and I defy you not to buy it!
Take a look at this quick flick through to discover more.
And if you're still not sure... every time a book is purchased a portion of the royalties is donated to Action for Conservation a charity "dedicated to inspiring young people to take action for the natural world".
Title: The Lost Words
Author: Robert MacFarlane
Illustrator: Jackie Morris
Size: 37.5cm x 27.5cm
Publisher: Penguin ~ Hamish Hamilton
To read more about how this book came about, take a look at the article written by Louise Walsh which can be found on the University of Cambridge website https://www.cam.ac.uk/thelostwords