What is it?  Where did it come from?  What does it want?  Even before you begin reading this picture book, What Is It? by Nicole Hoang and Dustin Nguyen invite you to imagine what would happen if you see something odd and how you would react to it.

This charming story begins with a girl walking in a forest and stumbling upon a furry creature.  But what type of creature is it? It’s a curious furry beast, with a big nose, smelly breath, and long claws.  Afraid, the girl runs away from the thing, but it runs after her.  However, when she falls into a lake, the creature turns around and runs away from her, possibly afraid of the water.  In the end, the girl is left with many unanswered questions but so is the creature.  Who or what did they meet in the forest?

The plot may be simple, but the overall message and theme presented in this picture book is done wonderfully.  What Is It? allows young readers to express their imaginations and curiosity about the world around them.  Writer Nicole Hoang uses a rhyming scheme to create a playful narrative with simple language that goes well with Dustin Nguyen’s (artist for DC Comics: Secret Hero Society) bright watercolor pictures.

The story’s narrator is the young curious girl who is fearful of the creature, but soon finds her courage when she recognizes the monster’s own fear.  But what is striking is the creature itself.  Hoang and Nguyen have created a character with an assortment of animalistic features.  It appears to be a hybrid of a koala, a hippo, a bear, and, according to the narrator, a cow.  Their creation is a creature that a child may imagine.  Using the creative mind of a child invites readers to open their own minds and create their own mystery creature.  But appearances aside, if you dig a little deeper, you may find some similarities between the creature and the girl.  Even though the reader is given the girl’s point of view, the creature is very similar to her in its behaviors and reactions.  It, too, possesses a curious nature and reacts to her behaviors in ways it may see as appropriate.  And just like the girl, it’s left with many unanswered questions.

Thanks to the great collaboration of this husband and wife team, What Is It? is a perfect book for any children’s library collection.  For librarians who conduct storytime, give this book a try.  It will entertain children from preschool to first grade and open discussions about the ending.  Will the two meet again?  Will the girl discover another odd creature?  Ask them what type of creature they can make up.  A child’s imagination is limitless and what better way to spark it then a great imaginative story.

What Is It?
by Nicole Hoang
Art by Dustin Nguyen
ISBN: 9781608868353
Boom!, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 2-6

  • Gloria

    | She/Her Children's Librarian, Elmont Memorial Library

    Gloria is a full-time children’s librarian at the Elmont Memorial Library in Long Island, New York where she runs a monthly STEAM program, a graphic novel book club, and storytime for preschoolers. During her free time, she is found reading anything and everything from the classics, to poetry, to the newest best seller. Her other interests include writing, online games, exploring new areas in her home state, and spending time with friends, family, and colleagues. She has also written articles and reviews for the website Cosplay, Comics, and Geek Culture in Libraries and on her personal Goodreads page.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!