A short while ago, we published Kampung Boy, Lat’s wonderfully funny graphic novel about growing up in a Malaysian village. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat.
The book is hugely popular in Asia, where Lat is a household name—even more so than favourites like Michael Leunig or Murray ‘Footrot Flats’ Ball are in Australia and New Zealand.
When I travelled to the 2009 Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair to meet with Lat, I had a copy of Kampung Boy with me on the flight. As soon as she saw the book, a flight attendant came over and immediately engaged me in conversation.
‘So, you know Lat?’ she smiled, excitedly. ‘He is a very famous Malaysian writer.’
‘You’ve read his books?’ I asked.
‘Everyone has read his books,’ was her reply. ‘Especially Kampung Boy.’
It’s hard to convey Lat’s (real name: Mohammad Nor Khalid) standing in his own country. In 1994, he was granted the honorary title of Datuk by the Malaysian Government. His cartoons are seen regularly in the national newspaper, the New Straits Times, a film and TV series of Kampung Boy was made in 1997, Malaysia has even issued postage stamps of his Kampung Boy drawings, and AirAsia has even decorated one of its Boeing 737s in his honour.
We discovered the book quite late. It was first published in Malaysia (in English, not Malay) in 1979 by Berita Pubishing, and had gone through 15 printings up until 2008. It has also been published in the US, France, Japan and Germany.
Still, much better late than not at all. The book has had rave notices, not the least of which was from Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’ TV series, who said:
Sweet, funny, and brilliantly drawn, Kampung Boy is one of the all-time great cartoon books.
In Australia, Lat’s work has been likened to works as diverse as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Colin Thiele’s Sun on the Stubble. It’s interesting too that our promotional video for the book is by far the most popular of our videos on Youtube to date, with about 6000 views in the nine months after publication.
If you have read this wonderful work, why not post your own mini review as a comment to this blog post and let’s tell the rest of the world what it’s missing!