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 . . .

Suggested For You


  • You’ve got me, I’m exactly the same… Into worlds-within-worlds stories, Harry Potter fan too… Thank you for this beautiful review, this one is on my list :)

  • I have probably picked up and browsed through this book dozens of times at my local bookstore. I will now commit to buy.

  • Grace, this sounds like exactly the kind of book my book club would enjoy and you know what I feel like we could use a story with illustrations for a change. Thanks for the recommendation.

    PS I couldn’t be more happy that this was not a post about Wildwood, NJ!

  • These drawings are magical- a little Edward Gorey but softer. I’ve been reading about this book all over. Nice to know it’s not just for kids!

  • According to goodreads it’s part one of a trilogy. It sure looks wonderful, I’d like to get a copy.

  • I noticed this book at the bookstore, yes I judge a book by it’s cover! I have been considering purchasing and reading it to my kids. The illustrations are beautiful.

  • Just bought this book based on your moving review. I had just been thinking about how I haven’t read a book in way too long and I love the idea of reading a fantasy childlike story, which is not like me at all to do! So, looking forward to beginning this in a few days! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I can’t wait to get this book. My husband and I are planning on getting it as a gift-to-be for our unborn baby. We LOVE the decemberists. Many of their songs have great meaning to us and some have even inspired some name choices for our bebe so this book would be an ideal gift. I’m loving the style of the illustrations too, this combined with meloy’s incredible lyrical skills should make for a book series to treasure for ever. :)

  • I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! I have looked at it in powells like 100 times but haven’t gone for it. Well, today I am going to make my way down there and pick it up. Thank you!

  • I live in a place called Wildwood Park! It’s in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It’s a neat community in which the houses face into a green space, and there are no front streets. I’m totally getting this book for my husband for Christmas!

  • My dog & I cross the St Johns Bridge most weekends to hike the Wildwood trail. How could I not know this beautiful book exists?! Thank you, Grace, for your ongoing support of my hometown. I hope you experience the real Wildwood…so magical!

  • My 7-year old son Miles and I have been reading Wildwood together over the last few weeks. We were excited to see your post and share your enthusiasm!

  • I just ordered it on Amazon. I’m not sure I can wait to put it under the tree. I may have to give it to my daughter when it arrives Friday!

  • This looks like a great read, and the illustrations are beautiful. Thank you for bringing Wildwood to our attention. It’s not out yet in the UK, but I can’t wait to order it and read with my daughter.

  • this looks wonderful! Thank you for sharing…
    Now I can’t decide to buy for myself or gift to my sister….

  • At a local bookstore my eye was drawn to this book because of it’s beautiful design. Not wanting to judge it by it’s cover, however, I decided not to purchase it. I may have to rethink that decision!

  • The illustrations are such a perfect compliment to this story – what a treat that you featured them here. I checked this out from the library when it first was released, and have felt compelled to buy it since. And yes, there are more coming in the series – I can’t wait.

  • I totally just went and bought this at lunch time. Can’t WAIT to hide away and read it!!!!