Kampung Boy is a graphic memoir about LAT's (at the time he was called Mat) childhood living in his Kampung, a traditional village, in Malaysia. He writes about the activites of his youth, from learning to fish and swim in the local river, to attending Muslim lessons, to his great fear of the tin dredge that operated in a nearby bog. He talks about the simple activities of his days in the Kampung and how those events shaped his life. The illustrations perfectly capture the idyllic yet often humorous days of LAT's childhood, melding the Malaysian and Muslim cultures with the kinds of events that occur with children in villages all around the world. The words are borderline sparse, but the story could not be more clear and engaging.
Why It's Worth Reading:
This book is a beautiful, complex work of art disguised as a simple comic. LAT manages to encapsulate a coming-of-age story, a humorous memoir and a cultural expose in one short, illustrated volume. Once again, I am embarassed by how little I know of Malaysian culture and how quickly one little story opened my eyes to a piece of that world and its people. I loved the graphic style as well. The illustrations occupy most of every page with the words, if any, left to the margins, letting the art really convey a good portion of the message. It reminded me slightly of Gary Larson's The Far Side comics (Google them if they were before your time - hilarious!). You miss half of the message if you don't thoroughly consume the picture. The story felt light-hearted, but definitely contained some important messages. I am always impressed with authors and artists who can balance so perfectly on that very fine line between light and heavy. Kampung Boy is yet another example (to be added to these ones) of the impressive impact that a good graphic novel can make.
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: September 5, 2006
Awards/Accolades: At least 4 starred reviews & modern classic status
Do We Own a Copy?: On order. (If you're interested in graphic novels, did you know that we recently added 59 new nooks to our graphic novel collection? And we're adding more all the time!)