A PEMBROKESHIRE illustrator’s book, written to bring wildlife back to children, has been shortlisted as one of the nation’s favourite nature books.

The Lost Words, by St Davids based Jackie Morris and poet Robert Macfarlane, has found itself on a ten book shortlist, alongside such classics at Tarka the Otter and Wind in the Willows.

278 different titles were originally nominated for the award, with the shortlist being drawn up by a panel of nature writing experts. The winner will be announced on the BBC’s Winter Watch and public voting closes at midnight on January 25.

The Lost Words came about after both Jackie and Robert were asked to be among 25 signatories to a letter asking that certain nature words were re-introduced to the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

“Both myself and Robert would say that putting them back in the dictionary isn’t the answer,” said Jackie. “They need to be in people’s hearts and souls. They need to be looking at nature. Children who see a small brown bird need to know that’s a wren.”

With this in mind she had an idea to write a book consisting of the words that had been lost and their dictionary definitions, so that they had their own dictionary.

“I wrote to Robert who I had never met, and asked him to write the foreword,” said Jackie. “Out of that our book grew.

“It’s far more than I thought to start with. Something about his writing and my painting and the words has really caught the public’s imagination.”

The book consists of 20 acrostic spell-poems, based on each lost word, each of which has a triptych of paintings depicting a landscape in which the word has been lost, the word as an icon in gold leaf and the word returned to the landscape.

Many of the paintings were directly inspired by the Pembrokeshire landscape surrounding Jackie’s studio.

“Much of the reference material was in my landscape from the adder to the otter, and there are wrens everywhere,” she said.

“Ravens flew over my studio when I was painting ravens, magpies started building a nest outside when I was painting the magpies.”

The simplicity and heartfelt integrity of the book has won it two awards since it was published in October last year; it was named the Hay Festival’s Book of the Year 2017 and the Books are my Bag, Most Beautiful Book.

“It feels amazing,” said Jackie. “I can’t tell you what it felt like. I got a tweet on Thursday morning to say we had won Hay Book of the Year, which is voted for by people who love the festival and love books. The beautiful book awards are curated by independent book sellers, they are my favourite people alongside librarians.

“The best nature book is a bit overwhelming. It is an astonishing privilege to have your work recognised so young alongside books that are 50, 100 and 200 years old.”

The Lost Words has found favour with an audience ranging in age from very young children to the elderly.

“What we are finding is that it does appeal to very young readers,” said Jackie. “But we’ve also got an audience of over 90s who love the book as well.

“People want to get the book, take it out, show their children, find the things then name them.

“Working on this book has made me sharper in what I observe, I hope it will do the same for other people.”

*A Lost Words exhibition, featuring a series of immersive floor to ceiling graphics recordings of Robert and Jackie reading the poems, as well as tactile interactive interpretation stations will be at the Foundling Museum, London, from January 19 to May 6.