What Is It?
Writer: Nicole Hoang
Illustrator: Dustin Nguyen
Genre: Children’s picture book
KaBOOM! has long been at the forefront of kid-friendly, all-ages comic books with titles like Adventure Time, Clarence, and Steven Universe. They’re now opening up into kid’s pictures books. A natural progression, for sure. Their first ever picture book is What Is It? from Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Li’l Gotham, Study Hall of Justice) and Nicole Hoang and tells a short tale of a forest and a young girl who discovers a mysterious creature living between the trees. Is it friend or foe? Is it cute or creepy? Is it nice or nasty? Just what is it?!
What Is It? is a very cute little story that meanders in its arc. It’s almost like a story a child would ramble on about while delaying doing a task. Anyone who has ever been around a young child knows the type of story I’m describing. It’s the type of story that tells you something but it doesn’t really tell you something. In What Is It?, we get all the details about the strange woodland creature that the little girl bumps into but it doesn’t lead to us having any important information about it in the end. There’s physical descriptions galore and lot’s of ‘I did this’ and ‘then this happened’. It’s a charming way to tell this little story. It’s definitely something that children are going to relate to and understand easily at the very least.
The art of What Is It? is colourful and expressive and oh so very cute! Dustin Nguyen has a very soft and rounded style, intentionally lacking in fine details but beautifully done up with markers and/or watercolours (excuse my ignorance in being able to tell one definitively from the other) to bring out the nostalgia of childhood drawings with a more developed eye. The main character is cute as a button in her little sweater and the odd creature she finds is just as sweet with its miss-matched eyes and purple fur. It’s a monster, but not a monster that the little ones will be nervous about having in their bedtime story.
Writing a children’s book is one of the hardest things to do, let alone do well. People seem to think that morals have to be shoe-horned in, that these books have to teach you something. Kids (much like their more fully-grown counterparts adults) want to be passive aggressively taught things as much as they want to brush their teeth and eat their vegetables. Which is to say that they don’t. Books for children should be entertaining before they’re anything else! Isn’t that what adults want, after all?
A lot of writers don’t take entertainment into account when they sit down to write a children’s story. The perils of being an adult, I suppose. Hoang and Nguyen, however briefly, put aside their adultness and wrote a story that’s going to please children. It doesn’t force a moral or a lesson on its readers; it just tells you a silly little tale about a bizarre creature that you might come upon in the woods one day. It’s short, sweet, and an adorable addition to your little one’s book shelf.
What Is It? is on comic book shelves July 27, 2016 and in book stores August 2, 2016.