Reviews /

Through the Forest

Authored by Yijing Li
Illustrated by Yijing Li
Published by Lantana Publishing

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Through the Forest, written and illustrated by Yijing Li, is a gentle story about a young boy who we meet at the start, lost in a forest, ‘searching for something but did not know what’. He meets a figure called Emptiness also looking for something who helps guide him through the forest until they finally reach a meadow full of flowers and sunshine where the boy leaves Emptiness when he sees a path for the first time since becoming lost.

The journey they take together through the forest is one where they find familiar objects that remind the boy of memories both happy and sad: the kite he flew with Dada; a piece of a special vase that smashed when Mama left; the tie his grandpa gave him; a harmonica a friend taught him how to play; his first drawing that his teacher framed and more. All these moments in the story give an insight into how and why the boy may have found himself lost and lonely in the forest and each treasure he finds helps him to find his way and brings love and joy back. At the end we see the boy holding a red heart, smiling as he leaves Emptiness filled with all these objects letting him know, ‘I will always be here waiting for you whenever you need me’. The illustrations are soft and create a dreamlike effect throughout.

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book to share with children, and one for teachers to bring out when needed, to open up and support conversations around the importance of memories, dealing with loss and change.

Through the Forest is Yijing Li’s debut picture book which has been selected for the Klaus Flugge 2023 longlist, a prize which is awarded to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration.