The Crooked Forest: Legacy of the Holey Stone

Joni Franks, illustrated by Ayin Visitacion

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 58 Price: (paperback) $18.99 ISBN: 9781664179820 Reviewed: December, 2021 Author Website: Visit »

In this children’s story, a young girl searching for her mother instead finds friends—and a sense of peace with what may come.

Willow is a Shun: a group of tiny people who revere the natural world and are shunned by a human society that has become “disconnected from nature.”

One day, as Willow and her mother Luna collect herbs, an evil man spots Luna. Annoyed by her presence and fearful she will ruin his plan to illegally divert water to his village from a sacred creek, he pelts her with stones. Mother and daughter are separated, and Willow is left alone and afraid, until she encounters a Corgi puppy she names Gyzmo. Together, the new friends search for Willow’s mother.

On their journey, they meet Mystery Woman and other mystical characters who eventually guide them to the Cave of the Crystals. There, a bear named Celestina directs Willow to the “dream lodge,” where she sees a vision of a silver wolf and her mother, who reassures her she is “safe and free from harm until we meet again.”

In the end, the evil man taps the spring, destroying nature’s “perfect balance” and triggering a seven-year drought for his village. And although never physically reunited with her mother, Willow finds peace,

The story is replete with allusions to New Age ideas—the healing power of crystals, vision quests, spirit animals, planes of consciousness —all wrapped in a message about the dangers of disrespecting nature. It offers rich description and imaginative elements.

Unfortunately, the story’s intended audience is unclear. While picture-book size, the volume is actually a chapter book with dense text, scant illustrations, and concepts and words inappropriate for young readers (“centralized government,” “regeneration,” “rhetoric” etc.).

While older children might enjoy the characters, they are unlikely to understand the abstract New Age elements or appreciate the ambiguous ending.

Despite descriptive writing and a compelling protagonist, this story requires greater awareness of its target audience to reach readers.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.