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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some big vocabulary words, including "paradoxical" and "aberration." Brief introductions to complex concepts, including the work of neurons and glia in the brain.
The boys, often dismissed by adults as unpromising students, turn out to be happy, successful people with fulfilling jobs and happy family lives. It's important to work hard and take care of responsibilities, but it's also important to leave room for fun and imagination.
Positive Role Models
George and Harold are delighted with their future selves: successful creators of graphic novels who are married with children. They diligently do their best to complete extra assignments despite being sick. Adults are generally portrayed as villains in this series, but here a couple helps save the day.
Violence & Scariness
Mild cartoon violence, including a mind-controlling chemical spray that targets children; good and bad guys fight; an explosion.
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A touch of crude humor, including fart jokes.
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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.
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!
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.