Graphic Novel Review: Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen. Oni Press, 2019. 9781620105634. 160pp. including a nature journal and a recipe for mushroom rice in the back.

Willow is in elementary school. She cries a lot and lashes out. (A lot of that is because her mom died after Willow said some horrible things to her, though that’s not incredibly clear until much later in the book.) Willow’s sister, who is trying to take care of her, tells her she needs to grow up and stop being so out of control. Willow, upset, runs off into the woods with her dog, Chicory, where they meet a lost forest spirit, Pilu, who ran away from home after fighting with her mother. By trying to help Pilu find her way home, Willow opens up about the little monsters inside her that sometimes take over (Pilu has her own version of these, too), and tries to find a better way to deal with them than locking them away.

Nguyen’s art feels very kind and friendly, and though the watery “monsters” inside Willow can look a little a little angry they’re probably not enough to freak out most younger readers. There are a few pages full of facts about the forest, which arise from Willow’s conversation with Pilu. Nguyen’s forest colors seem bound to inspire art along similar lines.


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