Book Review: Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen (eARC)

“Everything leaves a little mark.”

Pilu of the woods

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. (Goodreads)

I fell in love with the gorgeous artwork immediately. But do not be fooled by the overall cuteness, because the story is actually very heavy and dark and there are monsters hiding on every frame.

This is a story of a little girl named Willow. She lives with her family near a lovely forest. It’s pretty clear from the start that she is very unhappy and does not get on well with kids at school and with her sister. One day, she meets a cute but lost little forest spirit named Pilu and helps her find her way home. In the process of helping Pilu, Willow also discovers the path to facing her own problems.

Pilu of the woods

The use of color themes to differentiate between past and present is very helpful and enriches the reading experience. It’s a bit text heavy for a graphic novel, but it’s something I can forgive with this one. The story is a metaphor for mental illness and for such a complicated topic, I think the author still did a great job.

It’s about depression and anxiety and how it affects our family and friends. Mental health is an issue we should be aware of even at a young age. It’s also about loss of loved ones and how to move on as a family after such a tragedy. The story reminds us to be kind to everyone we meet because we don’t know what struggles they are going through.

I also love the message that it’s okay to cry sometimes–crying is not a sign of weakness if it means we are being in touch with our emotions and honest with our reactions to our environment.

Pilu of the woods

It’s all about learning to accept who you are in order to start the process of loving yourself. My favorite part of this story is its message to be kind to your monsters–not necessarily letting them win, but to understand them, and work with them to be able to function normally as a whole being. This is a concept I rarely see and it was illustrated so simply and brilliantly.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs more books about mental health awareness, beautiful friendships, and to everyone else who loves great stories and art.

Pilu of the woods

Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Oni Press for giving me a copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication is on April 17th 2019.

Overall Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Mai K. Nguyen

Mai K. Nguyen is a comic maker and illustrator who loves telling stories that are somewhere between dreamy and cozy.

Visit her at her website.

Buy Links


Pilu of the woods

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen (eARC)

  1. This looks both lovely and insightful. 💜 The illustrations are wonderful. 👍✨

    I agree with being kind to your monsters. I’ve come to understand that over the years. Life would be so much easier if we could have the wisdom of old(er) age in our youth. 💙

    Liked by 1 person

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