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Kampung Boy Paperback – September 5, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Malaysian comics creator Lat makes his American debut with this down-to-earth account of childhood in a Southeast Asian kampung, or village. His black-and-white text resembles a chronological sketchbook, with stilt-houses and jungle plants inked on each page, and handwritten text explaining events and customs. Impatient readers might wish for a glossary or map: "I was born in a kampung in the heart of the world's largest tin-mining district—the Kinta Valley in Perak," says the narrator, and leaves it at that. But most will enjoy the protagonist's casual chronicle of rites of passage such as a hair-shaving ceremony ("adat cukur kepala"), lessons in the Koran at age six, the Bersunat (circumcision) ceremony at age 10, and a trip to the movies circa 1960. From the window of his house, he sees a rubber plantation and hears the "distant roaring sound... of a tin dredge." Later, Constable Mat Saman, a Barney Fife–like zealot toting an automatic rifle, chases villagers who pan the river for saleable tin scraps. Lat's adults have narrow chests and slouch pelvis-first, while mischievous children canoe, dive and fish in the river. This first in a projected series ends on a to-be-continued note, with the narrator leaving for boarding school and already homesick for the kampung. Lat's loose, laid-back stories of Muslim family life and school should appeal to Marjane Satrapi fans; with humor and affection, Lat makes the exotic kampung feel familiar. All ages. (Sept.)
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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4 Up–Kampung Boy is a pleasure to read. It follows the early life of a Muslim boy growing up in a tiny town in Malaysia during the 1950s. Incidents are well chosen and illuminating, including the rituals surrounding birth, the solidity and pride of family, the joy of skinny-dipping, and the fanfare of a traditional circumcision ceremony. All are handled tastefully and with nostalgic reverence. Illustrations are simple, yet emotionally expressive and charming. As engaging as any travelogue, the book uses universal themes to connect readers to a time and place that may very well no longer exist, but sincere reflection and honest details will draw them into this other world and win their hearts. American audiences are lucky to finally receive this international classic.–Dawn Rutherford, King County Library System, Bellevue, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; Reprint edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431218
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.5 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAME on September 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Everybody talks about how important it is to promote multiculturalism to our children. Kids are fed the usual everybody's different/everybody's the same stuff year after year, sometimes illustrated with color pictures in a social studies textbook. The obvious conclusion to draw from this would be to think that this would mean that the world of publishing books for kids would be rife with writers from all over the world. Yet one of the biggest shocks I received when I became a children's librarian was to see the lamentable lack of books for the kiddies from any countries aside from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and sometimes Australia. I was baffled. We hardly get any books from India? But aren't they an English speaking country anyway? And how about, oh I dunno, the ENTIRE CONTINENT OF AFRICA? Nothing? Nada? Oh, I was pissed, no question. Since that time, I've put a fair amount of energy into trying to read every little tiny children's book from another continent, no matter how small. Lately, however, I've been falling down on the job. I don't know if it's ennui or the fact that I've been reading a lot of books solely from the U.S. lately, but when "Kampung Boy" flew out of left field and ker-whalloped me upside the head, I never saw it coming. Sweet child of mine, this isn't just a graphic novel (with far more emphasis on the "novel" part than usual). It's a graphic novel originally set and published in Malaysia. And the year it was originally published in Malaysia? 1979. Now the book, all thanks to First Second Books, has come here to the U.S. o' A. and I couldn't be happier. Let's practice a little of what we preach, okay? You believe in multiculturalism? Then give this book to a kid right now.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michele Delattre on March 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is quite a wonderful graphic novel and should be in every k-12 school library -- probably several copies because once parents get their hands on it they'll want to keep it. It provides an engaging glimpse into growing up as a boy in a Muslim Malaysian village where the traditional agricultural life is on the verge of disappearing. For history/social science teachers it provides great material for talking about the practice of Islam outside the Middle East, industrialization, education, friendship and childhood rites of passage, -- how to have fun without screens. When someone (firstsecond books?) publishes the follow-up volume, Town Boy, there is terrific material for discussions of multiculturalism. But apart from all these classroom excuses, it is hilarious and will just make you happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sweet Potato on December 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here's a graphic novel about a boy growing up in Asia. It's fun to read because there is a lot of humor. I tried to read it to my 4-year-old son, but it's too long for him to pay attention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Surplus Sunshine on August 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really entertaining and thought provoking. It really gets you thinking about global econonomy and its impact on small communities. It is a great vehicle to learning about Malaysia. I will add this to my classroom library (grade six) to help with world geography.
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By Andy Shuping on August 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Lat takes us on a journey of his childhood growing up in the Kitna Valley in Perak in the 1950's. Lat is master storyteller as he takes us down the wandering path of his memories showing us the ceremonies that were still practiced--such as asking the local teacher to take on students, the feeling of swimming in a river as the cool water washes over you, and the warmth and somewhat craziness of family--like the dad that takes off his shirt to scratch his back on the pole when he gets home from work, caring for siblings, and the discussions of future. But the modern world is gradually approaching with tin dredges and trains and automobiles. And Lat is about to head off to school in another town away from his family.

This book is done in a sketchbook style, with written descriptions of the events and illustrations accompanying them. The deceptively simple illustrations are compelling and catch that slice of life that seem to be missing in many modern comics. He doesn't hesitate to illustrate what life was really like growing up for him, even if it means depicting his own backside as he and his friends strip down to take a swim in the river. Most importantly even though Lat illustrates how things are different in his world, there is much that is similar to our own way of life. The time spent with family and friends, the time spent at school..the more things seem to be different the more there is that is the same.

I highly recommend this book and it's sequel (Town Boy) to anyone and everyone, but particularly to the younger generation. Not just as a chance to illustrate the differences between cultures, but a chance to illustrate the similarities between them.
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Format: Paperback
Having spent most of my childhood in Malaysia, I grew up reading Lat comics. As I grew older, I began to collect his works and even after more than two decades, I still treasure his works, and find them to be great character studies of ordinary folk, as well as an authentic portrait of life in Malaysia.

In Kampung Boy, Lat revisits his childhood days in a Malay village located in the tin-mining district of Perak. His drawings are simple, and even a bit stereotypical [based on the usual profiles of the different ethnic races, be it Malay, Indian or Chinese], yet they aptly capture various emotions such as joy, anger, frustration etc. The stories are wonderfully authentic, for I myself have spent some time in small Malay villages, and know exactly how it was like back then. Things have changed now of course, with the inevitable rapid development that has characterised much of Malaysia. This makes Lat's work all the more important - for it captures a bygone era, a more innocent time, when kids were left to their own devices to entertain themselves [having no TV, computers or other modern amenities]. Fishing, swimming in the river, even tin panning[!] kept Lat and company occupied back then.

I hope Lat's work gets wider recognition [he is a legend in the annals of Malaysian comics], and I think Kampung Boy is definitely a book that will appeal to most kids, and even adults who enjoy simple, heartfelt stories peopled by memorable characters.
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