Prime Baby

Why did no one tell me that maths would help me make contact with aliens? If I’d read Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang in school, my maths teachers would have loved me much more.

Also I would have invented time travel, because I’m pretty sure that came out this April from :01.

So I don’t feel quite as betrayed by the universe that I only just read it. But I finally did and now so should you.

It’s a small, fast read with gorgeous artwork and it made me giggle repeatedly. Sure there are themes and layers here about how humans view anything alien, whether it’s another race (er, subtext?) or actual small, slightly pink aliens, but also there’s a lovely, quite simple, storyline about a boy, Thaddeus, getting a little sister who, it turns out, is endeavouring to communicate through the use of prime numbers and is quite probably an alien, or at least blarfs up tiny little spaceships. Because according to his math teacher, were aliens to try and contact us they’d do it with prime numbers—one of the universal constants.

Prime Baby 1

Prime Baby 1

But what if the aliens were nice? And you’d planned your entire future around fighting them? Or what if your little sister thinks you love her and then you left her all alone in a government research facility? And you had just one space ship left? Would you pretend to blarf it yourself?

Read it. It’ll take you about 15 minutes to read and you’ll be thinking about it and smiling for the rest of the day. Then, I promise, you’ll go back and reread a couple times in that first day alone. It was originally in the funny pages of the NYTimes and you can get more of a taste of it over there.

There are multiple story-lines that all intertwine: the family, friendlessness, the little sister, alien contact and the school stories, all of which form a great rounded picture of both Thaddeus and the events as they happen, but my favourite might actually be the alien contact. The aliens are both entirely adorable visually and very determined to bring sunshine, happiness, socks and sing-a-longs to Earth (and sandwiches for homeless people). Which doesn’t click at all with Thaddeus’ determination to be a hero (and eventually ruler of everything) by defeating them and saving the Earth. Thaddeus, obviously, embodies the common mentality found in the media towards things that are alien. And coming to terms with the shattering of his preconceptions is a simply told, but beautifully drawn journey that broke a few of my preconceptions about him along the way.  

Bored of me talking now? Lookit adorable aliens:

Nina Lourie is mentally re-writing Code Monkey with the words “Prime Baby”. And possibly proposing to the Prime Baby author. In this signature line. Y/N?


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