Pilu of the Woods review: Get ready to feel all the feelings!

Review by Sam Beard

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Synopsis:

A heartwarming story of friendship, loss, and finding your way home from debut author/illustrator Mai K. Nguyen! 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.

Big thanks to Oni Press for providing this graphic novel for review.

The cover art of this book really captured my attention before I knew anything about the story. Combine beautiful foliage with a cute dog and odds are I’m going to like it. That beauty carries over in both the art and the plot of Pilu.

I completely fell in love with the lettering in this book. It flowed so nicely from panel to panel. There was a mix of traditional speech bubbles and the hand lettering seen in the panels above. This was done in part to convey when the text was part of external vs internal dialogue. I think it worked very well, and it made for some amazing panels I would love to frame and see every day.

At its core, Pilu is a story about accepting the darkness within yourself. The main character, Willow, has some inner demons that cause her to lash out at her dad and her sister. She’s angry and doesn’t have the proper tools to deal with her aggression. She meets a lovely forest creature named Pilu who’s dealing with some of the same problems. Throughout the course of their journey, they find ways to handle their anger, sadness, and other negative feelings they struggle with.

As an adult reader, I absolutely adored Pilu. You are never too old to learn or relearn the messages presented in this story. If you need a pick me up read, or you just want to enjoy some beautiful forest artwork, I highly recommend you pick up Pilu on April 17th.

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