Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Brian Won

© Brian Won

Sept. 26, 2014

KidLit411 is excited and honored to present the amazingly talented Brian Won! Brian is the creator of the awesome new book, HOORAY FOR HAT! We love this book and are thrilled that Brian has agreed to be featured in our Spotlight. Be sure to enter his giveaway for a set of art cards!

© Brian Won

Welcome, Brian!

Tell us about your background and how you decided to become an illustrator.

I always enjoyed drawing and doodling, but never thought I could pursue it as a career. My Asian parents had high expectations for me to become a doctor, so much so they nicknamed me "Harvard Boy" when I was in the second grade. This would all come to an end when my parents realized a 2.8 GPA would not get "Harvard Boy" into any Ivy League schools. I graduated from art school with an illustration degree and pursued a career in motion graphics design. After my son was born, I created a series of drawings called "Charlie & Friends" and it reignited my interest in illustration, specifically children's book illustration.

© Brian Won

When did you start writing your own picture books, and how did that come about?

Writing picture books came about at the same time my wife and I began reading to Charlie. We would visit the library and my brain would short circuit from finding books that I grew up reading. While introducing these stories to my kid, I thought to myself I would love to make my own picture books too. 

Do you have a favorite book that you've worked on?

My favorite book I've worked on is HOORAY FOR HAT! (which is the only book I've published) It's a letter to my boy that lasting happiness comes from helping others. 

© Brian Won

Is it harder to be an author-illustrator or illustrate others' stories?

I find it harder to illustrate others' stories but not for the same reasons other illustrators give. For me, the thought I may disappoint two people, the author and the illustrator, is a heavier burden than disappointing only myself. The author entrusts their story to be realized by someone they don't even get to choose!

© Brian Won

What projects are you working on now? Will we see more of HOORAY?

I finished illustrating a fantastic night time book, OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE written by Rob Sanders (Random House, January 2015). I'm also working on projects for Candlewick and Workman Publishing. For my day job, I continue to freelance design but would love to make books full time. I'm in the process of writing a HOORAY companion but want to make sure its the right story. 

© Brian Won

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators or author-illustrators?

I recommend going to a library and checking out stacks of children's books. There's something pure about discovering books at a library because the books are displayed with equal footing, spine side out. Best of all, you'll notice how worn out the books are with blueberry stains and ripped pages… exactly how a kid treats his/her favorite books. Also read the books out loud. You'll notice a rhythm and flow that great books share. I learned this the hard way by reading a book five times in one sitting to my kid.

How did you come up with the idea for HOORAY FOR HAT!

The inspiration for HOORAY FOR HAT! came from my son Charlie. When he was two years old, he would run around the house yelling "Hooray for Hat!" It confused me that it was a singular hat and not plural "hats". He was (and still is) awful at sharing so I wanted to write a story on the benefits of sharing outside of just social etiquette. 

Brian Won wore many hats as a busboy, shoe salesman, art store cashier, art director, and designer before he turned his talents to illustrating children's books. His debut picture book, HOORAY FOR HAT!, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Spring 2014.

A Chicago native, Brian graduated from California’s Art Center College of Design with an honorary ninth term before co-founding National Television, a design and animation company. Brian's awards include the Silver Medal by the Society of Illustrators and the 2012 Mentorship Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 
He currently lives in Eagle Rock, California with his wife and young son. You can see more of Brian's work at
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  1. Oh my goodness..."Harvard Boy"? That's a lot pressure on a 7 year old! We're glad you didn't become a doctor because you may never have written Hooray For Hat otherwise. ;) Thank you for sharing your art and for the giveaway, and thank you, Kidlit411 for the interview!

  2. I agree with Teresa. Any author would be priviledged to work with such a talented artist. Good luck on your sequel!

  3. Great interview, Elaine and Brian. I love your art and HOORAY FOR HAT is awesome!

  4. Hooray for Brian! Glad you are following your passion, annd I look forward to your next books.


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