by Grace Bonney

For years, I’ve embarrassed Amy by saying, “I’m not much of a reader” in posts. What was once a sad but honest admission is now happily a thing of the past due to our book tour. With so much time spent on planes and in cars, I’ve been tearing through books like I did when I was younger. Rather than filling my brain with trashy magazines and bad plane movies, I’ve been joyfully packing it with new information and imaginary worlds that have captured my heart and mind in a way I forgot was possible. And one world has captured it more than others: Wildwood.

Wildwood is the story of a young girl living in Portland, Oregon, who, out of necessity, finds herself in a magical world across the bridge from her hometown. The story was written by Colin Meloy and illustrated masterfully by Carson Ellis. Colin and Carson are married, and this creative marriage is so seamless and natural that it feels they were meant to make this book together. While I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, the story follows this brave young girl, Prue, through her adventures in Wildwood to find her lost little brother. She encounters animals and people so wonderfully described (and illustrated) that I found myself with that bittersweet twinge of sadness at the end of the book, wishing Wildwood was in fact a real place. I’ve always been someone who prefers stories about magical worlds-within-worlds — cue my Harry Potter obsession — but Wildwood felt different from the beginning. From the texture of the pages to the depth of the beautiful colorplates within, the book was part of this other world entirely. I was smitten at chapter one, and I was so sad to finish it that I dragged out the final chapter over three days.

We are doing a full book gift guide after Thanksgiving, but I really wanted to give Wildwood its own post here because it meant so much to me. If you’re looking for a book to give someone this year (children or adults), I can’t suggest Wildwood more. It’s a moving and beautiful story that inspired me to live a bit more bravely, and I think it will do the same for a lot of younger people who read it (especially young girls). As someone who loves art and illustration, I really appreciated the book’s attention to detail. The illustrations are so lush and detailed that it’s easy to imagine walking through the woods yourself. It’s quite simply the best book I’ve read in years (it’s even inspired my next tattoo). If you’re looking for a wonderful holiday gift, click here to pick up a copy and here to view the accompanying website (with a free preview of the first four chapters). Congrats to Colin and Carson on a truly wonderful book. I can’t wait to read parts two and three!

*Stay tuned for an update this afternoon involving Wildwood. Colin and Carson will be signing copies at an event I’m working on in Portland on December 10 + 11!

More of Carson’s illustrations from the book continue after the jump . . .

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