Although this is Lat’s first book to be published in the United States, he is an incredibly well respected writer in Southeast Asia. The winner of numerous awards, including the Special Jury Award given by the Malaysian Press Institute, Lat is clearly an undiscovered gem in our society.
Kampung Boyis the story of a young boy, Mat, growing up in a rural part of Malaysia during the 1950s. The story follow Mat as he remembers aspects of his family life, societal norms, mischievous happenings, and the struggle of their town’s way of life among the impeding tin mines. Eventually, Mat is shipped off to a boarding school in the city. As he leaves, he wonders what will be left of the town he grew up in.
Kampung boy is a wonderfully drawn and narrated book. The work between both narration and drawing provide an incredible insight into a foreign culture in which many Americans have trouble grasping, if not view as primitive. Through Lat’s talents for storytelling, he makes these social boundaries disappear and shows that even though societies may differ, people are generally the same.
Along with my other recommendation for American Born Chinese, this stands out as a superior publication by First Second Books and a must-have for any respectable graphic novel collection.
As for school libraries, I would say this book is good for 7th-12th grade.