Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers: Captain Underpants, Book 9
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fun, clever time-travel plot mixes with usual potty jokes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some sophisticated vocabulary ("injurious," "nuisance," "nonsensical," "impudence," etc.) that kids can understand in context (and that parents may find a good balance to the toilet jokes). In one section, author Dav Pilkey lays the foundation to understanding time-travel paradoxes and explains why feminists would be upset that a sign says "Free Bra Inspection" (instead of "Brake") at a gas station.
The backstory about how George and Harold meet in kindergarten shows how even kids who think they're friendless can find a kindred spirit. Their collaborations as writer (George) and illustrator (Harold) also encourage young readers to pursue their own talents -- possibly with a friend. On the other hand, there are jokes indicating that the worst insult to a boy is that he's like a girl; the inclusion of such insults (about a bully being framed to look like he enjoys tea parties, pretty dresses, and other "girly" things) might reinforce gender stereotypes.
Positive Role Models
Although George and Harold are guilty of pranking the lead bully, they seem motivated more by a desire for justice than by revenge. The boys take it upon themselves to defend fellow kindergartners because the principal refuses to help anyone but his nephew, the bully.
Violence & Scariness
The violence is extremely (and literally) cartoonish. Usually it involves bullying (mostly sixth graders terrorizing kindergartners), but there are also several pranks that leave the bullies hurt as well (George uses a tie as whip, for example). A group of women pushes and kicks a gas station owner, a maniacal villain freezes people (temporarily), and giant zombie nerds crush a character. Some action scenes are shown in "Flip-o-Rama," so readers have to flip between pages to see what happens.
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Potty humor and mentions of poop and toilets and loogies.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers is the ninth installment in Dav Pilkey's bestselling series that flies off the elementary-school library shelves. Like all of its predecessors, there's a mix of bathroom humor and elaborate pranks that leave both bullies and the "innocent" slightly injured. The language includes potty talk but also complicated words explained through context; the violence is cartoonish but does feature freeze rays, a tie used as a whip, some kicking and pushing, and fear of a legend the protagonists created. There's an implication that the greatest insult to a boy is that he be thought of as girly. On the bright side, this series is considered an ideal choice for reluctant readers.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
George and Harold were last seen about to be arrested for robbing a bank (a crime actually committed by their evil twins) but were then \"rescued\" by villain Tippy Tinkletrousers, who'd travelled from the future. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS introduces the idea of time-travel paradoxes and how changing just one thing (intervening in the bank robbery) can lead to the eventual end of the world as we know it. The time travel leads to an extended flashback that lasts the bulk of the book, involving the origins of George and Harold's friendship as new neighbors who meet in kindergarten and collaborate on comic books and defeat the school's ring of sixth-grade bullies.
Is It Any Good?
Dav Pilkey is a master of enticing young kids, particularly boys, to their elementary-school libraries by writing exactly at their level -- bathroom humor and all. Although some parents don't appreciate the series' potty jokes and the misspellings (the stories within the book are written by George, in this case a kindergartner!), it's obvious why kids (and adults who enjoy a finely crafted comic adventure filled with toilet and time-travel gags) would find Pilkey's books irresistible.
There's so much to delight readers, from the "Flip-o-Rama" pages to the little interruptions to explain something else pivotal to the story (like the "Banana Cream Pie Paradox"). The book is packed with clever jokes, funny illustrations, and an impressive array of vocabulary words. Finally, readers find out exactly how protagonists/partners George and Harold met as incoming kindergartners -- an epic literary friendship for the under-10 set. And for parents reading along, there are plenty of references that will make grown-ups laugh out loud, like the chapter titled "Break in Two: Electric Boogaloo." Captain Underpants might be silly, but it's also an ingenious way to get young kids to read for pleasure.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why the Captain Underpants series is considered good for reluctant readers. What about these books appeals to kids who otherwise aren't interested in reading?
Why are books that feature bathroom jokes so popular with kids? Do you think this series appeals equally to boys and girls? Why?
What do you think will happen in the final installment? Did all of the flashbacks and time travel get confusing?
- Author: Dav Pilkey
- Illustrator: Dav Pilkey
- Genre: Humor
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: August 28, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 11
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Hardback
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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