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Kru Jac: A Year in Thailand

Jacqueline Lai, 150 pages, self-published, jacq-lai.com, $20

Jacqueline Lai introduces us to the vibrant life of rural Thailand in her graphic novel Kru Jac: A Year in Thailand, composed of 150 pages of colourful hand-drawn illustrations. There is so much to love about this book.

Lai switches seamlessly between ink, marker, pencil, and watercolours. The ink bleeds on the page like she’s drawn the picture moments ago. Life at her school is drawn in intimate detail. We follow her into the classroom, see lectures, meet students, and share meals. We even travel to the Akha Church for a Thanksgiving service. The world in A Year in Thailand is exquisitely bright, lively, and charming.

Not only is the art a visual delight, but Lai’s writing is a breath of fresh air. Her commentary balances the humorous with the contemplative. She shares fond memories of class: “Students presented their flipbooks today. One kid called his rocket ship flipbook, ‘Your Love Takes Me to the Moon.’” Whereas other students most likely did something like this: “My English class student Gukik came up with the sentence ‘they like to request sick leave.’ Ha … already thinking about slacking.”

Throughout, Lai juggles between archiving memories, illustrating her observations, and educating those unfamiliar with Thai culture. Though the graphic novel has a choppy and non-linear flow, Lai beautifully threads narrative fragments together with a cheerful style. This graphic novel is a joyful celebration of new experiences and an excellent addition to the shelves of travel and art enthusiasts everywhere. (Jean Mathew)

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