'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 4 November 2010

Review: Kampung Boy

A sort of generic cross between a comic book and a picture book, Kampung Boy is like entering a remote Malaysian village, sitting on a mat with some fried tapioca and tilting one's head towards a wise old man as he recounts the story of his life.

It's mesmerising and totally sophisticated for a 'comic book'. But the thing is, Kampung Boy is not really a comic book.

It's really a pictorial autobiography - and I almost felt like a nosyparker, peeking into the traditional, ritualistic and private world that is Muslim Malay village life... like I had a privileged and sacred view of something I perhaps shouldn't see.

It felt wonderful.
This is a tale of a deceptively basic but absolutely beautiful life. We watch as the young Kampung boy grows - playing with spots of sunlight that fall on the floor, wedging his head immobile in the balustrades around his family home, caring for his baby sister - swinging her in the hammock and singing a tune.

We learn about his warm relationship with his dad, his overprotective mother and the everydayness that is his life - from the local wildlife surrounding his house to the prayer rituals - even the way his dad dives into the local river... It's like we are living alongside the boy, and I must say - I completely revelled in every single moment, in each discovery of a life so different from our own.

Funny, utterly adorable black and white pictures make this book such a laugh-out-loud treat. The scene where the boy's fellow students are learning their Muslim lessons, doze off, are woken by the whack of a cane on the floor, then later strip off and run to the river for a swim... priceless.

I absolutely adored learning about the life of this Kampung boy - it was intriguing and it opened my heart even wider (if that's at all possible) to the glorious traditions of multiculturalism that sustains this planet. The ending to this book and the hearfelt emotion that permeates each page showcases a talented writer whose sense of humour, honesty and knack for storytelling make for a must-have book for anyone who loves to travel.

Or for anyone at all.

Title: Kampung Boy
Author/Illustrator: Lat
Publisher: Wilkins Farago, $22.99
Publication Date: September 2009
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9780980607000
For ages: 6+
Type: Comic/Picture Book