Review: The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

Well hello there, dear readers! I have been on hiatus the last month, but what could be a better book to come back to than The Lost Spells? Yes, the spotlight today is on The Lost Spells, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed, reader-beloved The Lost Words, by creators Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. Read on and I hope you enjoy!

The follow-up to the internationally bestselling sensation The Lost WordsThe Lost Spells is a beautiful collection of poems and illustrations that evokes the magic of the everyday natural world. Since its publication in 2017, The Lost Words has enchanted readers with its poetry and illustrations of the natural world. Now, The Lost Spells, a book kindred in spirit and tone, continues to re-wild the lives of children and adults. The Lost Spells evokes the wonder of everyday nature, conjuring up red foxes, birch trees, jackdaws, and more in poems and illustrations that flow between the pages and into readers’ minds. Robert Macfarlane’s spell-poems and Jackie Morris’s watercolour illustrations are musical and magical: these are summoning spells, words of recollection, charms of protection. To read The Lost Spells is to see anew the natural world within our grasp and to be reminded of what happens when we allow it to slip away.

Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear. Creatures, places and words disappear, day after day, year on year. But there has always been singing in dark time – and wonder is needed now more than ever.” – Robert Macfarlane, Preface, The Lost Spells

Award-winning The Lost Words creators Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris reunite to bring readers a new, utterly mesmerizing and glorious book of poetry and art with The Lost Spells.

A compact book of numerous spells “to be spoken aloud”, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ latest collaboration is outstanding. The Lost Spells is a collection of dazzling, each-unlike-the-next ‘spell-poems’ written by Macfarlane that ask to be read and recited, with magnificent watercolour illustrations (many are stunning full-page spreads) by Morris twined into the text and throughout the book. From creatures and living beings such red fox and oak, beech and gannet, jackdaw to thrift, the spell-poems are delicious exercises in sound, in word play, in onomatopoeia, in the familiar and the unfamiliar. Just take a look at the delight that is an excerpt from the spell ‘Jackdaw’:

"King of the chimney-stack,
the belfry bivouac,
bright-eyed steeplejack,
from church-tower to tarmac,
giving it the snicker-snack!"
-excerpt from Jackdaw, The Lost Spells

Wonderfully contemplative and inspiriting (and as genuinely educational as it is a jewel of a book to display), The Lost Spells draws the reader in from the get-go and holds on well after the final pages are done. I was fortunate to have had the chance read and review The Lost Words in late 2018 and to this day, I still refer to and examine the book at length. I can see this too happening with The Lost Spells. This title, as with the predecessor, can function to readers (and educators as well) as a nature book and call to conservation, as a visual reference guide, and, of course, as a book of poetry. Peruse as you wish, take the poems out of order (though ‘Silver Birch: A Lullaby’, the ending spell-poem really does make for the perfect finale!), go back and forth and reread, revisit, share, gaze at the artwork and endpapers…

While it is perhaps not essential to have read and pored over The Lost Words before delving into The Lost Spells, the former is also an extraordinary piece of literature (in artistry and in writing) that will excite, hypnotize, and prepare your mind for the latter. Both of these works are arguably a multi-sensory experience for the reader (and listener): a feast for eyes and ears, a foray into learning, an exercise in chanting, in sounding out and reciting. And, as The Lost Spells Glossary suggests, you can also use the book to ‘seek, speak and find’ each creature or tree, and “take this book to wood and river…park and garden…to look, to name, to see”! The possibilities of experience and enlightenment are quite boundless here! The partnership between CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal winner Jackie Morris and Wainwright Prize winner Robert Macfarlane is sublime- this cannot be overstated- a match made in harmony and of mastery (and possibly otherworldly). The Lost Spells is highly recommended reading, for admirers of the world and its creatures, for poets, for seekers of magic, for seekers of hope, for children, teens, and adults alike.

For more about The Lost Words and The Lost Spells, interested readers can take a look at The Lost Words website, with details about Spell Songs– the “musical companion piece to The Lost Words”, brought to life by eight musicians, resources including an Explorer’s Guide, as well as further information about the lauded co-creators. You can also take a peek at two videos below: the first is a preview of The Lost Spells, the second is a recitation of a poem from The Lost Spells called ‘Red Fox’, accompanied with art by the incomparable Jackie Morris.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of House of Anansi Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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