A Wedding Present Turned Children's Book: Dustin Nguyen And Nicole Hoang Talk, What Is It?

It's an exciting time for KaBOOM! as they prepare to release their first ever children's book! The story is entitled, What is it?, and it's written by Nicole Hoang, with art by Dustin Nguyen. However, this isn't just an ordinary story. In fact, it was written by Nicole when she was ten years old. Dustin, her husband, decided to illustrate it as a wedding present to her, and now they are happy to share it with the rest of the world!

So what's it all about?

"In a nearby forest, a young girl discovers a mysterious little creature. Together they seek to understand who or what the other is. Featuring beautifully painted illustrations by Dustin Nguyen, What Is It? is a story of wonder, discovery, and the joy of making new friends."

I was lucky enough to chat with Dustin and Nicole about the book…


Christine Marie: Hi Dustin and Nicole! Thank you so much for joining me here on Bleeding Cool.

Dustin Nguyen: Thanks for having us!

Nicole Hoang: Thank you.

CM: I just had the pleasure of reading KaBOOM!'s first ever children's book entitled What Is It? This is all thanks to the two of you! Before we talk about the story, will you share with readers the origin?

DN: Originally, it was a short story Nicole wrote as a kid for fun; she drew it herself on index cards and tied it together with ribbons. I think it was just something she did for herself. She showed it to me before we were married and I thought it would be a fun surprise to redraw her story and make a small book as a gift for the guests at our wedding. I printed about 300 copies with the help of friends. This was in 2002; the version that the rest of the world will see is an entirely redrawn version, not drawn over a weekend haha.

NH: I was just about 10 years old, so honestly can't remember too much, but I think I just created the story for fun. Growing up, I read a lot, and my favorites were the works of writers like Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl. I think this might have been where it all stemmed from.

CM: What are the differences now versus your original draft? Did it always rhyme?

NH: It's actually the exact same story word for word as my original. We've kept the entire wording the same. The only difference is the art is now by him rather than myself.

CM: Dustin, your beautiful artwork brings these wonderful characters to life. What was your creative process like when thinking about the design for both the characters and the simplistic backdrops?

DN: I created the creature based on Nicole's description of it in the book. She was very descriptive for a kid, so it was easy to follow. For the setting, I went with an autumn/ seasonal atmosphere since Fall is Nicole's favorite season.

CM: What do you think makes this story important? It's certainly a good thing to add a children's book into the world of comics. Do you think it will encourage young readers to pick up other books they wouldn't normally gravitate towards?

DN: I'm a huge fan of pictures and words, so I can say this is pure joy for just myself. If we can get kids to read it and create stories of their own, that would be a definite plus. I'm just glad we're able to share it with the world.

NH: I hope it does! Finding the time to read is the one thing I miss most now that I'm an adult with much less time and much more responsibilities.

CM: What was the most rewarding and challenging thing about working on this book?

DN: Finally getting to put out a book with Nicole is the best thing ever. The most challenging part was really just finding the right way to translate the ideas of a 10-year-old. :D

NH: It was pretty easy on my end this time around, I finished it long ago haha. The reward is having it done to share with our friends and family.

CM: Finally, I always like to ask creators, if you had to describe the book in three words, what would they be?

DN & NH: What is it. :D

I had the pleasure of reading the book early, and wow it is delightful. I can't wait to buy a copy for my niece and read it to her! I hope this is something that comic book publishers continue to do as time goes on. KaBOOM! is simply the perfect imprint to kick things off. What is it will be available July 27 in comic shops and August 2 in bookstores. Take a look at a preview page below:


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Christine MarieAbout Christine Marie

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