Willow loves the woods near her house. They’re calm and quiet, so different from her own turbulent emotions, which she keeps locked away. When her emotions get the better of her one day, she decides to run away into the woods. There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home—which turns out to be the magnolia grove Willow’s mom used to take her to. Willow offers to help Pilu, and the two quickly become friends.
But the journey is long, and Pilu isn’t sure she’s ready to return home yet—which infuriates Willow, who’s determined to make up for her own mistakes by getting Pilu back safely. As a storm rages and Willow’s emotions bubble to the surface, they suddenly take on a physical form, putting both girls in danger… and forcing Willow to confront her inner feelings once and for all.
I found this gem at my local game store, T&N Games. Continuing my new love for graphic novels, I’ve been trying to find publications from smaller presses and lesser known artists. I was not disappointed with my choice of Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen.
First off, the art is gorgeous. Growing up on the west coast I have a strong appreciation for the attention paid to the details of the forest. It truly is its own character in the story, acting as a representation of Willow’s family and community. She’s a young kid dealing with a lot of emotions and looks at the forest as both a place of comfort and a place of sadness.
Nguyen crafts the story of Willow’s clash with her grief beautifully. Personifying her emotional struggle as monsters was the perfect comparison. This made it simple to empathize with Willow as she came to terms with what she was experiencing – through her adventure with Pilu.
Even though it is more of a middle-grade read, I found it an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes of my evening. It was quick to go through since most of the pages are artwork. I found the pages with only art told as much of a story as the page with art and text. I can’t write enough about how much I love the illustrations in this book.