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What I read in December 2019 (Part 3)

I finished reading two more books in December. The first one was a Christmas present and the second a library book.

Mrs Noah’s Pockets by Jackie Morris and illustrated by James Mayhew

Mrs Noah’s Pockets is a beautiful picture book. Although it appears under the genre ‘Religious books’ on some websites, the story is so loosely connected to the biblical account (Genesis 6-8) that I’d move it to fantasy! It would be a good book to use in discussion with older children as well as reading aloud with younger children. On Christmas Day three adults read my copy and discussed it; their reactions reminded me of two of the characters in The Library of Lost and Found (previous post.)

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

This is a long, light read. Although I had brought it home from the library, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the time required to read over 700 pages by an author, many of whose books I had already read. However it was just right for the period between Christmas and New Year. The main characters grow from childhood into adulthood during the story, which is set in Ireland in the mid 20th century. The Irish culture of the time influences the story, which I become engrossed in.

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What I read in June 2019 (Part 4)

Four recommended reads this time.

The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers

As a child I collected most of the series of Ladybird books about nature. I used to reread them on Saturday mornings in summer, when I was awake before the rest of the household. In an idle moment I read through the wildflower book again. It was interesting to see what was included. There are plants (including a few rare ones) which flower in different seasons and various habitats. The illustrations are lovely paintings. As I didn’t take it out into the countryside, I’m not sure I learned a lot from it as a child, although I did understand the use of a key to the pictures. Each painting is accompanied by text and a line drawing with numbers indicating which plant is which. My interest in reading it again was due to #wildflowerhour.

The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow by Jackie Morris

I was delighted to receive this beautiful book as a present. I was unaware of Jackie Morris’ books apart from The Lost Words, which I have written about previously. The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow developed from a series of Christmas cards, which the artist/author had designed for a charity – Help Musicians UK. I looked through it and read the whole text in an hour or two. It was so beautiful it made me cry.

The text is a series of stories with a fairy-tale feel about them. It is a picture book for adults. Many details in the pictures make it a book, which can be enjoyed over and over again.

Live, Lose, Learn: A Poetry Collection by Mari Howard

This beautifully presented book from Hodge Publishing was on sale at a writers’ weekend I attended recently. I read all the poems in a single sitting, but will return to this slim volume later to read them more slowly. There are four sections in the book and some illustrations. Unfortunately there is no contents list.

The Dangers of Family Secrets by Debby Holt

As I am currently reading two nonfiction books, which I hope to have finished and be ready to review soon, I popped into the library to find some light reading. The book I chose was on the Quick Choice display. The title caught my eye and the blurb made the book sound interesting. I began reading it the same day and spent a lazy Saturday afternoon reading to the end. There are a lot of strands to the story, which are satisfactorily woven together by the end. As an added bonus some of the characters have literary or artistic interests. Coincidentally Tom’s Midnight Garden is  mentioned in this book. I actually laughed out loud at one point, when a build-up of tension in the story was replaced by relief.

A visit to The Lost Words exhibition

As the date for The Lost Words exhibition to close was approaching I realised that it would be possible to visit it in a single day travelling by train and bus. The internet is a wonderful tool for discovering and planning. I booked advance tickets including plusbus, collected them from a machine, set my alarm for an early start and off we went.

My research fell down a little over the location of bus stops, but we still managed to arrive at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in the morning. There were other people travelling on the same bus to the gardens. Fortunately one of them knew the way!

Inverleith House

Inverleith House

Entry to the gardens is free, as for The Lost Words exhibition. We found Inverleith House with the help of maps in the gardens and arrived there at the same time as a group of primary school children. (The summer holidays start and end earlier in Scotland than in England for reasons connected with the Scottish potato harvest in earlier times.)

We followed the youngsters in and were impressed by their enthusiasm. However we chose a different route around the exhibition so that we could enjoy it more quietly! In fact we went round some of it twice.

The rooms were empty apart from the exhibition on the walls. Jackie Morris’s beautiful artwork was displayed alongside Robert Macfarlane’s acrostic poems. There were other items of interest, such as an enclosed nature table a bird’s nest and egg, another representing the artist’s workspace and yet another with the writer’s notebook showing his work in progress. Relevant items from the Royal Botanic Garden’s archive were also on display.

There were families and individuals visiting the exhibition. The artwork was presumably the originals from which the book was made. The paintings of the absences did not have the scattered letters across them, which are in the book. I didn’t realise the difference until the following day, when I was describing the exhibition to someone, who hadn’t heard about it. (Yes, there still are people, who have not heard of The Lost Words!)

The book is beautiful, but some of the paintings are interrupted by the fold between facing pages. It was lovely to see them as complete pictures in frames and to be able to admire them from a distance or have a closer look.

I am amazed that many of my friends and acquaintances do not seem to have heard of The Lost Words.

One who has, alerted me to other spin-offs from the dictionary, which replaced nature words with technical ones. Malcolm Guite wrote a sonnet. He also has a list of all the old words omitted from the dictionary in order to make room for modern ones.

Many but not all of the missing words are included in The Lost Words. My post about the book may be found here.