Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kampung Boy

Kampung Boy by Lat
First Second Publishing
144 pages
Graphic novel, family life, childhood
Price: $16.95
ISBN13: 9781596431218
Ages: 10 and up

This graphic novel follows the birth and childhood of the narrator, a Muslim boy in a tiny village in Malaysia in the 1950’s. The narrator begins school, spends time with his family, learns to fish, attends a wedding, and undergoes the traditional circumcision ceremony (“Adat cukur kepala”). He even gets into a little trouble with his parents. Finally, he passes his qualifying exams and leaves the village to attend private school. Although excited to go away to school, as he leaves he realizes he will miss the village and hopes that it will never change. This is a melancholy moment for the reader, as we realize his village and way of life most likely have not remained the same.

The story is laid out in a straight-forward manner, with black and white pen drawings. The author’s affection for his characters is clear in every line. The adults are huge, hulking people compared to the tiny children, who are drawn as mostly a head with a little body. Babies’ bare bottoms moon the reader, and the actions of the mischievous children provoke smiles. Some readers may take issue in the way certain locations or traditions are mentioned without maps or long explanations; however, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the graphic novel.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow CIty

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller
ISBN13: 9781582349602
ISBN10: 1582349606
Publisher: Bloomberg Publishing PLC
Subject: Action & Adventure, Identity, Crime
Publication Date: May 2006
Pages: 387
Ages: 11 and up

Kiki Strike is a mysterious new seventh grader at the Atalaya School for Girls. Ananka, the book’s narrator and classmate of Kiki, decides to find out more about her. At the same time, Ananka also wants to find out more about the giant sinkhole in the park across the street from her apartment in New York City, and why it leads to a hidden underground city. In fact, Ananka’s curiosity leads her to these discoveries and also to membership in a group of talented misfit girls called “The Irregulars”, led by Kiki Strike. Together, they work to explore the underground city and realize their adventures may lead them to more trouble and danger than they ever anticipated. Closing each chapter is a list of handy real-world survival tips, including “How to be a master of disguise”, “How to detect a lie”, and “How to take advantage of being a girl”.

Kirsten Miller’s debut novel is a rollicking adventure. The plot and intrigue keep the pages flowing at a brisk pace. Although some of the adventures are quite fantastic, this book is not a fantasy novel. The reader is convinced that, although unlikely, these adventures could actually happen. Reading this book can bring a sense of wonder, excitement, and intrigue to one’s everyday life. This book would appeal mainly to 11-14 year old girls, as the narrative shows how normal girls can find their own individual talents and have adventures. Boys might have a harder time finding an appeal in this book as there are no strong male characters. One other thing to note: although aimed at female readers, this book does not deal with romance or other traditionally “girly” topics, so it would appeal most to girls who desire something a little different from everything normally aimed at them.

Kiki Strike’s Web site:

“Unshelved” comic strip about Kiki Strike: (originally run 2/4/07)