Grief is a complicated emotion, especially for young people who don’t have a frame of reference to help them process their feelings. In the wake of her mother’s death, a young girl named Willow struggles to connect with her sister and her classmates in Mai K. Nguyen’s new Oni Press graphic novel, Pilu Of The Woods. But Willow’s life takes a drastic turn when she meets Pilu, an adorable forest spirit looking to find her way home, giving Willow a new friend who needs her help to survive. Pilu Of The Woods takes a fantastic approach to exploring how a child copes with devastating loss, using the titular character to guide Willow on a therapeutic journey that brings up painful memories in order to help her move forward. That journey becomes more dangerous as Willow’s negative emotions take monstrous form, but in facing these creatures, Willow works through the guilt that is poisoning her soul.
This exclusive preview of Pilu Of The Woods, on sale April 17, highlights Nguyen’s lush artwork, which creates an immersive woodland setting and draws the two new friends together with animated expressions. The opening spread of this excerpt reveals a sprawling natural landscape, and Nguyen packs the forest with details that showcase her deep knowledge of plant life. That knowledge goes beyond the imagery, and in these pages, Nguyen educates readers with facts about mushrooms, pairing the education with cute visuals that give extra life to the fungi. Flashbacks to Willow’s time with her mom are colored with a sunny yellow that gives them an idealistic glow, highlighting the joy and tenderness that defined this relationship. Willow may not have those moments with her mom anymore, but her new friend helps her take comfort in those memories by eliminating negativity.