Kampung Boy

Lat, Author
Lat, Author . Roaring Brook/First Second $16.95 (142p) ISBN 978-1-59643-121-8
Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
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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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