Raymond Briggs' UG: Boy Genius of the Stone Age (and His Search for Soft Trousers)
Book review by Kristin Peck
In UG - Boy Genius, Raymond Briggs takes the average child's "Whys?" and turns them into a fully inquisitive child looking to improve the life surrounding him during the Stone Age.
UG, the son of DUG and DUGS, wants a pair of trousers that are not made out of stone. However, since the family lives in the Stone Age, such a crazy aspiration is completely unheard of.
Things that are warm are a mystery to UG, and when he brings them up to his family he is shot down over and over again, as one idea after another pops in his head.
Instead of raw meat for each and every meal, UG would like to mimic his friend AG and have some food that is cooked. Alas, such fancy things are too much for UG's mother. Using mammoth's skins as a blanket or even for his trousers? Not a chance.
Ordered to play with rocks, UG accidentally discovers the wheel, a boat (that sinks - after all it is made of stone), and even a fire pit.
As the reader turns each page of the comic/graphic novel layout, new ideas spring from UG's mind and show how deprived the people from the beginning truly were. It took minds like UG's to bring about what we have today.
And the "whys" have it!
Explaining a world where showing your bum was unacceptable enough that you had to wear stone shorts -though women still did not wear shirts -- may be a challenge to explain to a child.
Oh, and the picture of raw meat … gag! But, I suppose that was realistic for the time.
Can I just note that I am very glad I did not have a mother from the Stone Age who would eat the flowers I brought to her?
There is not a whole lot of amusement found within the pages of UG, but rather a more sympathetic feel for the boy who thought he had figured out how to have soft trousers only to realize that he had not figured out the concept of sewing yet.
In the end, UG - Boy Genius of the Stone Age hints at a sense of optimism, with UG hoping for a bright future of soft things and warmth, but behind UG are visible the two tombstones of DUGS and DUG (mom and dad), he now has whiskers on his face, and sadly he is still wearing stone pants.
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