Brook’s Mimi isn’t “just a grandmother,” she’s also “a grand friend” who weaves “words into everything.” The same could be said of The Keeper of Wild Words, Brooke Smith’s celebratory picture book that delivers an urgent plea to young readers.
Brook hopes to find something interesting to bring to show and tell on the first day of school, but on this late summer day, Mimi also has an important mission. She takes Brook on a hike and asks her to be her Keeper of Wild Words, a protector of the words Mimi fears are disappearing. She gives Brook a piece of notebook paper with wildlife words such as drake, monarch, starling and wren. As they walk through woods, meadows and streams, Brook and Mimi marvel at the natural delights they find. “Do wild words dance like this every morning?” Brook wonders.
In an author’s note, Smith explains that her story was inspired by The Oxford Junior Dictionary’s removal of more than 100 entries to make room for words like database, MP3 player and vandalism. The resulting tale is an inspirational commemoration of such “lost” words. Its final page contains a built-in pouch for readers, along with an appeal: “You can be a keeper too. Your wild worlds will stay safe inside this envelope.”
Madeline Kloepper’s vivid illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Smith’s rallying cry. Her pages are bright with red poppies, swooping starlings and beavers frolicking in a pond near a grassy shore. Readers will practically feel a puff of wind as Brook blows a cascade of dandelion seeds into the air, and they’ll hush to Mimi’s shushing as the pair passes a doe snoozing amid the ferns. Every spread is filled with wonder and warmth, not just for the natural world but also for the bond between grandmother and grandchild.
The Keeper of Wild Words is an irresistible invitation to a wild and wonderful linguistic crusade.