Kampung Boy by Lat
First Second Publishing
Graphic novel, family life, childhood
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.