Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Author & Illustrator: Lat
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: Realism

Format: Paperback
Pages: 144
Color: Black and white
ISBN 10: 1-59643-121-0
ISBN 13: 978-159643-121-0

From the book jacket: “Lat recounts the life of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up in rural Malaysia in the 1950s: his adventures and mischief-making, fishing trips, religious education, and work on his family's rubber plantation. Meanwhile, the traditional way of life in his village (or kampung) is steadily disappearing, with tin mines and factory jobs increasingly overtaking the village's agricultural way of life. When Mat himself leaves for boarding school, he can only hope that his familiar kampung will still be there when he returns.”

KAMPUNG BOY is the typical life of a Muslim community in Malaysia. Except for the specific cultural and religious traditions, the story could take place in any community where industry threatened to crush the rural way of life. The location may be different, the customs foreign, but the truths explored in KAMPUNG BOY are universal. Maintaining cultural traditions in the face of an expanding world is a challenging and sometimes impossible task. As many children find out when they leave home, the nest they knew may never be the same. This can be much to the dismay of both child and parent alike. Pastoral, intelligent and idyllic, KAMPUNG BOY is a beautiful yarn about friends, family, and growing up.

Lat’s black and white line art is distinctive and expressive, calm and inviting. He forgoes the traditional, outlined comic panels opting for a slower paced story with one to two pictures per page. The book is more text heavy than typical comics, but it is appropriate for the style of the story and makes the book unique.

My Rating: Ages 9 and older

There is some innocent, child nudity, but it is very appropriate to the story and is drawn in such a way as to hide genitalia. There is also a ritualistic circumcision. The nudity and the circumcision are neither gratuitous nor obscene, but are merely representative of rural childhood.

KAMPUNG BOY allows students to explore both other culture while simultaneously drawing connections to our own heritage and history. Industry and maturity are the overarching themes, sprinkled with relationships and tradition. Get out those maps, teachers, because there is much to explore in that part of the world.

The religion is cultural in nature and is not didactic, nor created to convert children to Islam. It is factual rather than spiritual and quite interesting. Of course, offering literature that speaks to multiple cultures supports a well-rounded classroom and promotes a diverse learning community.

TOWN BOY is the second installment in this creative series.

KAMPUNG BOY is demonstrates the many dichotomies and opposing forces at work in the world. From the push of industry onto agrarian communities to the friction between urban and rural life, KAMPUNG BOY defines life in terms of the small culture and the old way of life.

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