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Prime Baby Paperback – April 13, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Eight-year-old Thaddeus Fong is insanely jealous of his baby sister and exploits his intelligence as a weapon against his social insecurities. Politics ranging from those of the family to those of state are explored and sent up as Yang unfolds a rich and spirited story that lays bare psychological and social truths, a parable in which ever-forgiving space aliens play a major role in advancing not just the plot but also character development. Using the flat, cartoony style of his award-winning American Born Chinese (2006), Yang pulls us in from the first page and packs in several surprises as well as clever asides within its 56, multi-paneled, single-strip pages, allowing plenty of white space to force readers to note the finest details of the action in counterpoint to Thaddeus’ attempts to interpret every interaction as a personal slight. The color palette employed is soft, subtly contradicting Thaddeus’ emphatic evil-versus-good outlook with its relative gentleness. Sf readers who value humor and humanity (not just slam-bang action), Christians, newcomers to graphic novels, and fans of Yang’s simultaneously childlike and sophisticated ability to create and maintain tension should all be satisfied by his new book. --Francisca Goldsmith

Review

Eight-year-old Thaddeus Fong is insanely jealous of his baby sister and exploits his intelligence as a weapon against his social insecurities. Politics ranging from those of the family to those of state are explored and sent up as Yang unfolds a rich and spirited story that lays bare psychological and social truths, a parable in which ever-forgiving space aliens play a major role in advancing not just the plot but also character development. Using the flat, cartoon style of his award-winning American Born Chinese (2006), Yang pulls us in from the first page and packs in several surprises as well as clever asides within its 55, multi-paneled, single-strip pages, allowing plenty of white space to force readers to note the finest details of the action in counterpoint to Thaddeus' attempts to interpret every interaction as a personal slight. The color palette employed is soft, subtly contradicting Thaddeus' emphatic evil-versus-good outlook with its relative gentleness. Sf readers who value humor and humanity (not just slam-bang action), Christians, newcomers to graphic novels, and fans of Yang's simultaneously childlike and sophisticated ability to create and maintain tension should all be satisfied by his new book. (Francisca Goldsmith Booklist)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 580L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; 1 edition (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596436123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596436121
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.3 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,148,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By M. D. Lopez on July 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Through a series of contrivances that include prime numbers, a new facial hair-configuration, sock-knitting aliens and a small island republic, graphic novelist Gene Yang takes the well-worn premise of a jealous older brother to its illogical, yet hilarious, conclusion. "Prime Baby" tells the story of Thaddeus K. Fong, self-described "martyr for truth," and his over-envious relationship with baby sister Maddie.

"Prime Baby" is an excellent gateway book to start off young readers into the world of graphic novels/comics as well as engage reluctant readers. While some vocabulary may evade the grasp of some children, pre-teens especially will relate to the perils of a baby usurping the alpa child's domestic tranquility.

Yang's characterization of Thaddeus is nearly flawless, as his personality is cleverly revealed by the story's 3rd panel (In my own classroom, I've used the 1st strip of this book to teach a lesson on literary characterization with students in grades 6th - 8th).

Originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine's now discontinued Funny Pages, the story was laid out four strips to a page, allowing the reader to ingest more of the plot. However, in its book form, the strips are laid out one per page, breaking the pace of the story, reducing it to the rhythm of a comic strip: setup, joke, setup, joke.

Visually, the strips are offset by generous amounts of white space, which helps readers focus on the art, as well as the wondrously muted color palette of brown, gray and orange, as colored by fellow cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim.
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Format: Paperback
A really cute look at a kid with an overactive imagination.
In that regard, it kind of reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes, although Thaddeus has a real little sister instead of a stuffed tiger.
I liked the real science bit about prime numbers as artificial order instead of natural chaos, and Thaddeus' extrapolation from that is hilarious.
Very short though, especially considering how it's formatted as only one comic strip per page.
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Format: Paperback
Thaddeus--genius and future President of Earth--is convinced that there is something wrong with his baby sister. After all, she only babbles in prime numbers. But his parents won't listen to him because they mistakenly think he is an ordinary eight-year-old. All that will change when the aliens arrive, Thaddeus is sure. And it turns out that he is right, though not in the way he had expected.

Yang allows himself to embrace his snarky side in this short comic-strip story. Thaddeus is very smart for an eight-year-old--and convinced that he's even smarter than that--so readers who like a sarcastic touch will appreciate lines such as "My folks call her an `unexpected blessing.' Please. If it walks like an accident and talks like an accident, let's just call it an accident, all right?" But all is not snark. The aliens are actually do-gooders who come in peace to host sing-alongs and knit socks, something that Thaddeus is not entirely on board with. It's a measure of Yang's skills as a creator that he manages to write a thoughtful story without slipping too deep into "message" territory. The ending is not the rousing finale one might want, but readers will still appreciate the journey.

The sly touches found in the writing continue in the art. For example, the alien slug creatures wear salt shakers around their necks, a subtle reference to Yang's Christianity and the wearing of crosses--originally instruments of torture and murder. Thaddeus has just the right devious look on his face for the future ruler of everyone and his parents have the long suffering attitudes often worn by parents of overly intelligent children. Each comic strip is printed on its own page, so the book is thin and it has the long, low shape of other comic strip collections, such as Garfield.
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