by Raymond Briggs
London: Jonathan Cape, 2001
28 pp. – graphic novel
Age: 8 +
Interests: history, science, inventions
A brilliant young caveboy named Ug feels somehow that life could be better… if only he had soft trousers to wear instead of stone ones. Unfortunately his parents are rather limited thinkers:
Look, there’s nothing in the world except mud, bushes and stones, so take your pick – what do you want? Trousers made of mud? Trousers made of bushes?
And when he brings his mother flowers, she eats them.
A graphic novel celebrating the spirit of inquiry, and the desire to change the status quo. Extremely funny but also a little dark. Ug’s parents, especially his mother, consistently insult and belittle him whenever he wonders aloud about their world and lifestyle. All of his ideas and innovations come to naught. Even when he and his father finally manage to cut trouser shapes out of a soft animal skin, they are unable to sew the pieces together, so Ug’s big dream is never realized.
Great contrast is made between the inquisitive, bright boy and his old school, things-are-just-fine-the-way-they-are parents. A wonderful ‘misunderstood genius’ kind of tale. So of course tweens and teens will love this book, and enjoy the humour of it. (All historical anachronisms in the story and dialogue are pointed out in witty footnotes.) Of course young readers will also make the connection to modern times, and how they will be the ones to imagine a different world from the one we live in today.
Very smart, very funny. Suitable for age 8 and up – though Ug’s mom does have a rather Stone Age habit of going about topless.