I’ve just finished reading the wonderful The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone. It’s a fast paced adventure with something of Harry Potter and Pullmans’ Northern Lights about it but what struck me the most was the sheer joy of the setting and lexicon.
The action takes place around a gypsy camp in ‘The Ancientwood’ where our heroine Moll Pecksniff and her friend Siddy lead a life of wild abandon, spending their time ‘finding stuff and doing stuff’ in amongst the wildwood. The list of ‘Forest Secrets’ they keep in their Tree Fort gives a particularly good indication of the kind of ‘finding and doing’ that they’ve been getting up to!
Funnie-lookin mushhhrooms (hoppefullie poysonus), Odd Furns (mak u sikk if u eet em), Gyant Nettuls (the wuns Mooshie uzes in growse soop), Smooth Pebbuls (good fer catapultin annoyin peepul). P61
The book positively revels in the flora and fauna of the natural world as well as the idea of a community of people who are connected to and able to read the landscape. This gives the writing a truly timeless quality – the story could have taken place 100 years ago or could be happening right now in a hidden corner of the British landscape.
For me the book really chimed with things I have been reading (mainly via @JackieMorrisArt) about the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s choice to remove many words associated with nature and the countryside and how this is indicative of a worrying decline in the opportunities children have to connect with the natural world. Gone are the simple joys of words like acorn, conker, wren and bluebell which have been replaced instead by words such as broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee and cut-and-paste (deemed to be more relevant to a modern-day childhood). In the light of this it was such a relief to find a book which unashamedly celebrates its bluebells, bog-myrtle and yew trees and creates a convincing world populated by cobs, cuckoos and wildcats in which nature can be both benign and menacing.
You can read more about our ‘lost’ nature words in the following articles:
View the book trailer for The Dreamsnatcher on Simon & Schuster’s Youtube channel