'The Keeper of Wild Words' Celebrates the Lost Words of Nature

This children's book is a tribute to the beauty of the natural world.

An image from inside the book "The Keeper of Wild Words"

Brooke Smith

Several years ago, I learned the Oxford Junior Dictionary had decided to remove over 100 natural words from its pages — common words, like apricot, lavender, porcupine. The editors no longer felt they had relevance for today’s children.

At first, I was angry, then disillusioned, and ultimately very sad. But the power of being a writer is that you can create a world you want to see.

I decided to write a book where some of these lost wild words would be celebrated and recognized beyond the pages of the dictionary. To make sure they always stayed an integral part of our language and our children’s stories. I wanted children everywhere to be able to experience the beauty of nature and feel what it’s like to wander and explore.

I chose to write it from the point of view of a grandmother and her granddaughter. Why? Grandparents play such a special role in children’s lives. My dad was a touchstone for my daughter growing up. He gave her a nature backpack when she was very young, and the two of them would walk down our long cinder lane, exploring for hours. His patience with her was such a gift, and watching the two of them together was one of my favorite parts of her childhood.   

It’s absurd to think nature could ever be irrelevant to children. In fact, I’d argue that in the technology-filled world we now live in, nature plays a more important role than ever to provide a place to dream, rest and wonder.

"The Keeper of Wild Words" was recently chosen as one of the top 10 sustainability-themed children’s books of 2021 by the American Library Association. I’m so honored. One of the definitions of sustainability is to endure … to endure is to live on, remain in existence, last. I hope parents, grandparents, libraries, and schools will all become Keepers of Wild Words by sharing this book — and most importantly, the words it celebrates. 

You can purchase the book from Free the Ocean and when you do, they’ll remove 10 pieces of plastic from the ocean.

Brooke Smith is a poet and children’s book author. She lives in Bend, Oregon, at the end of a long cinder lane. Smith writes daily from her studio, looking at the meadow and the natural world that inspires her. She loves writing for children because they find beauty and wonder in small, ordinary things and allow her to do the same.