Keeping the Words Safe: The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith

Happy June! Let’s start our summer reading time with this…..

In 2017, a book of poetry was published; Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane (and incredible illustrations by Jackie Morris.) But far more than just an enchanting collection of poems based on flora and fauna, this book highlighted the shocking news that numerous words had been removed from the Oxford Childrens Dictionary in order to replace them with others. These words, all words that spoke of the nature and its’ beauty and variety were deemed to have lost there relevance to childrens’ lives. Words like acorn, otter, conker, kingfisher, dandelion were no longer important. How sad and very angry this made me! Losing these words at the time when we need to look more closely at our world, taking them from children so they grow up not knowing what these things are and how much delight they bring…it’s just wrong. And while Lost Words is an exquisite book that everyone, old and young must read, revel in and keep close, what young children need is a story that fascinates them, invites into the outdoors and encourages them to look closer and have a wide vocabulary to describe the world surrounding them. This picture book fits the bill…


author: Brooke Smith

illustrator: Madeline Kloepper

Chronicle Books (10 March 2020)

ISBN: 9781452170732

When Brook skips into her grandmother Mimis’ house, she knows she belongs. But on this day, they both need each others’ help; Brook with a school project and Mimi needs Brook to help her recover her favourite disappearing wild words. Simple words that describe and name so much of the wild world; like wren and poppy, buttercup and acorn. Mimi elects Brook as their Keeper and the only way to save words is to know them and use them. They set off on the summer morning, wandering through woods and fields, down by the pond and searching the skies, collecting all the wild words they can find. And before you know it, Brook discovers she’s also finished her school project, too….

Here we have a story that gives us not only the power of words and an understanding of the environment, but also a gentle adventure of a grandmother and her granddaughter exploring and cherishing the natural world. We learn much and understand the importance of the grandmother/granddaughter friendship, the kindness and concern with which Mimi teaches Brook about nature and language; the memories they build that will last a lifetime, to be shared with others. The tint and hue of the lovely, detailed illustrations not only give us pictures of the world around them, but echo the moving interconnection and communication between the two. Flowing images in earthy browns and refreshing greens, dotted with little surprise splashes of violet, red, yellow…creating a comforting, natural, cosy feel.

And we learn much about language; how it changes, the interrelating impact of words on how we live. The words we use define how we think, what we come to understand and what we value as a society. By saving and using words and very things they stand for, we save so much that would otherwise be lost and keep our world a rich and vibrant place. Now this may seem a “heavy lesson” for a childrens’ picture book, but it is a lesson revealed with subtlety and grace here; wrapped in a heart-warming story of love, connection and quiet joy in each others’ company. The last page is an “envelope” and an invitation for the reader to become a “Keeper of Wild Words” as well (sorry, there is no “crown”) for the perfect, interactive ending to an ongoing story. This book is also loving tribute to the important relationship and impact that grandparents have on their grandchildren. A gorgeous book to ignite curiosity and hope; encouraging, happy, tender, warm and wonderful.

2 thoughts on “Keeping the Words Safe: The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith

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