Readers of the blog may know that I am a huge fan of Gene Luen Yang. I’ve reviewed his previous two books released through :01 Second Publishing (American Born Chinese and The Eternal Smile) and now I have the chance to review his most recent book, “Prime Baby.”
Thaddeus K. Fong is your typical first born child. He thinks the world revolves around him and for a while, it probably does. He lets this power go to his head and quickly develops ideas of eventually ruling the world with a just, but iron fist. Enter new baby sister Maddie. As Thaddeus puts it, “[his] mother’s womb is a Trojan horse, I tell you.” From there, eight-year old Thaddeus becomes filled with jealousy over his baby sister, who he feels isn’t worthy of being his sister and is pretty dumb. That is until he learns about prime numbers in class one day and stumbles upon a fact only he seems to see: his sister is an alien. But as Thaddeus quickly learns, it is more than that.
Yang is the kind of artist that will deserve any and all recognition he gets. His work, while simplistic in nature, is lively and vibrant. He is also the master of the devious grin, which appears frequently in this book. Similar to Alexis Fajardo and Kid Beowulf, Yang understands the power of simplicity. Instead of attempting to capture reality, his work focuses on capturing emotion and feeling and he is a master at doing this. Along with him is colorist Derek Kirk Kim, who worked with Yang on “Eternal Smile.” Kim’s colors add to the cheerful tone of the book and add to Yang’s art by making it even more vibrant.
Perhaps more so than his previous books, “Prime Baby” shows Yang’s strengths as a writer because of the various levels this story can be seen on. On the surface, it is a story of Thaddeus coming to terms with no longer being the only child in his family, with the arrival of baby Maddie. But it is also possible to see this book as an allegory of human nature to attack and fear the different and strange, as well as our reluctance to accept peace when offered to us.
On top of that, it is about the desires of power and the result of self-interest and all this from a boy who is basically a brat through the duration of the story. Not to spoil the story, but when all is said and done, Thaddeus is still scheming about world domination on the last page of the book. He is a genuine eight-year-old, so readers should expect to want to be irritated with him at various times in the story.
This book is magical. It’s instantly appealing and Yang is at the top of his game with it. It is quick witted and a fun read. And clocking in at 56 pages, it can be read while riding the BART to Cal State East Bay (which is how I read it the first time). Yang knows how to tell a great story and this is just another example of his tremendous skills. “Prime Baby” is available through :01 Books. Blessings and smiles to you!
All images are copyright of First Second Books