Kampung Boy

Lat, illustrated by the author

First Second



Trade Paperback

144 Pages



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An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
A YALSA Great Graphic Novel
A Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books Blue Ribbon Book

A New York Public Library Books for the Teenage
A Booklist Editor's Choice
A Booklist Top Ten Biography for Youth

The Kampung Boy Series is popular among millions of readers in Southeast Asia. Lat recounts the life of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up in rural Malaysia in the 1950s: his adventures and mischief-making, fishing trips, religious study, and work on his family's rubber plantation. Meanwhile, the traditional way of life in his village (or kampung) is steadily disappearing, with tin mines and factory jobs gradually replacing family farms and rubber small-holders. When Mat himself leaves for boarding school, he can only hope that his familiar kampung will still be there when he returns.


Praise for Kampung Boy

"Did I mention that this book is hilarious? . . . [An] existentially funny, seriously searching graphic novel."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Sweet, funny, and brilliantly drawn, Kampung Boy is one of the all-time great cartoon books."—Matt Groening

"In a charming story of a young boy's life, Lat recounts his childhood living in a small village (or kampung) in Malaysia. Beginning in his infancy, the reader experiences Lat's life up to his later boyhood, when he leaves his family and familiarity to attend boarding school. In addition to sharing his memories, Lat pays close attention to the social mores and nuances of his culture, offering the reader a glimpse into a foreign life. A sweetly naturalistic memoir, this non-traditional graphic novel breaks free of the conventional boxy panel layout to richly extend the black and white illustrations over the pages, with most pages containing a single scene. The art is highly detailed, letting the reader linger over each page, enjoying the feel of experiencing life in another country. Besides offering up a smart cohesion of careful text with meticulous illustration, Lat offers his readers a unique perspective in his scenes; when drawing himself as a young boy, his settings are oversized and exaggerated, showing the reader that even in a small kampung, life can still loom large for a child. Intriguing and edifying, Lat's memoir is an endearing look at a foreign adolescence."—Kirkus Reviews

"Kampung Boy is a pleasure to read. It follows the early life of a Muslim boy growing up in a tiny town in Malaysia during the 1950s. Incidents are well chosen and illuminating, including the rituals surrounding birth, the solidity and pride of family, the joy of skinny-dipping, and the fanfare of a traditional circumcision ceremony. All are handled tastefully and with nostalgic reverence. Illustrations are simple, yet emotionally expressive and charming. As engaging as any travelogue, the book uses universal themes to connect readers to a time and place that may very well no longer exist, but sincere reflection and honest details will draw them into this other world and win their hearts. American audiences are lucky to finally receive this international classic."—Dawn Rutherford, School Library Journal (starred review)

"This outstanding graphic novel chronicles the early adventures of Mat, a conventional Muslim boy, and his family and friends. Mat is an exuberant and expressive character much adored by his affectionate family and the often-hilarious villagers . . . Lat reminds readers on every page of the energy and delight of childhood. The book breathes life into the themes of loyalty, ecology, family values, and societal customs. [Lat's] gifted graphics, which are the embodiment of simplicity and innocent charm, are revealed in this first U.S. release. The original and exceptional artwork is sweet, playful, expressive, and energetically animated. It is a delightfully fun read, and it would be a welcome addition to any young adult collection."—VOYA

"Malaysian cartoonist Lat uses the graphic novel format to share the story of his childhood in a small village, or kampung. From his birth and adventures as a toddler to the enlargements of his world as he attends classes in the village, makes friends, and, finally, departs for a prestigious city boarding school, this autobiography is warm, authentic, and wholly engaging. Lat depicts small children—including himself—as mostly mop-topped, toothy, bare-bottomed or sarong-draped—while the important adults in his life appear in billowing trousers or dramatic spectacles. Everything is wonderfully detailed in his scribbly black-and-white sketches; each page is crammed with heavy inked action scenes, which are explained in simple but eloquent prose. Some passages recall past behavior; others focus on cultural events and surroundings—a wedding, a rubber plantation, Lat's circumcision ('It took place on a banana trunk. In two minutes it was over . . . just like an ant bite!'). Filled with humor and affection, the book is a delight; readers will enjoy it not only as an introduction to a well-known Southeast Asian artist but also a story of boyhood that encompasses both universals and the specifics of a time and place."—Booklist

"[A] down-to-earth account of childhood in a Southeast Asian kampung, or village . . . [M]ost 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 . . . 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."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Lat, illustrated by the author

  • One of the most beloved cartoonists in Southeast Asia, Lat published his first work when he was just thirteen years old. He has received numerous awards, including, in 1994, the prestigious Malaysian honorific title Datuk. Most recently he was honored by the Malaysian Press Institute with their Special Jury Award, given to "those who have contributed significantly to journalism and society and have become an institution in their own right." Kampung Boy is his first book to be published in the U.S.

  • Lat