A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot -- the 12th book in the goofy series by Dav Pilkey -- still has fart and underwear jokes, but the humor is less gross than in earlier books. The story's heroes, Harold and George, are both described as being proud of their ADHD diagnoses because they feel it marks them as special and creative. They do get into mischief at school but also buckle down and do their schoolwork. Some of the humor will sail over kids' heads (including pop culture-inspired chapter titles, such as "The Trouble with Zizzles" and "Laughter Moon Delight"). School staff are generally horrible, lazy adults who dislike children. Parents get gentler treatment: When the boys overhear their parents gushing about their seemingly improved behavior, the boys react sadly and feel unloved. In a time-travel scene where the boys see their adult selves, Pilkey matter-of-factly shows Harold with his husband and loving family.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In In CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT, not-too-bright gym teacher Mr. Meaner becomes a genius -- an evil genius -- after munching on a strange substance that fell from space smack into Piqua, Ohio. He invents a machine that turns children into obedient, eager workers, trying it out first on Yesterday Harold and Yesterday George (duplicates from an earlier time-travel experiment). Present-day Harold and George are horrified to see themselves and their classmates transformed by something called Attention Superfluous Lethargy Syndrome into mindlessly obedient workers. As the only children unaffected by the noxious spray, thanks to their stuffy noses Harold and George travel to the future to get help from the only adults they can trust: their future selves.
Is it any good?
This 12th giddy book in Dav Pilkey's much-loved (and much-challenged) series is surprisingly heartfelt. We learn that George and Harold, who exasperate their teachers, worry their parents, and are far from model students, grow up to be successful, happy fathers and husbands. Pilkey takes a few jabs at the "grouchy old people" who've criticized his books. He then leads young readers on a merry mockery of grown-ups who seem to forget that being silly and creative is part of being a kid and part of what will help them become good grown-ups someday. The story builds on twists and turns across the previous 11 books, but newcomers will have no trouble reading this as a standalone book.
Pilkey hints this could be the end of Captain Underpants. If it is, it's a satisfying send-off that evokes the classic closings of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes or The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh -- no joke!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this series is often criticized by adults. How would you respond if an adult told you these books aren't appropriate for kids?
Harold and George are heartbroken to overhear their parents praising their better-behaved duplicate selves. Do you think their parents are as bad as the teachers? Do you sometimes hear criticism underneath praise?
Try drawing your own "Flip-O-Rama" sequence or graphic novel.
- Author: Dav Pilkey
- Illustrator: Dav Pilkey
- Genre: Humor
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: August 25, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 18
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.