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Captain Underpants Series
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dav Pilkey’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS series is full of potty humor, irreverent jokes, and the surprisingly heartfelt adventures of underdogs. There’s a lot of challenging vocabulary set among the fart jokes, so while the illustrations on every page engage reluctant readers, words like "villainous," "endoskeleton," and "ingenuity" offer a challenge to those more advanced. The series has a reputation for being infantile, but it’s fairly nuanced, and includes some jokes that adults will get but that will be over the heads of young readers. Each book pits good against evil, with battles that involve turbo toilets and Wedgie Power and, of course, a caped crusader in underpants.
What's the story?
In the CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS series, fourth-graders Harold and George battle evil in many forms: zombies, a toilet that devours everything in its path, machines that make people lethargic, terrible adults, the Dandelion of Doom. Their school principal, Mr. Krupp, is cruel, hates children, and tries to stop George and Harold from whatever adventures they attempt, especially on school grounds. But Mr. Krupp turns into Captain Underpants when he's hypnotized, bringing to life the superhero from the boys' homemade comic books. Their brainy school nemesis, Melvin, likes to tattle on the boys, and tries to get them in trouble whenever he can. The other adults in the series are often portrayed as mean or bumbling, and have alter egos with strange super powers, like Ms. Ribble who becomes Wedgie Woman.
Is it any good?
Packed with wit, illustrations, adventure, heart, and surprisingly nuanced potty humor, these books are a delight to read and will encourage reluctant readers to stay with a long story. The Captain Underpants series combines eye-popping illustrations and paragraphs full of fun, vocabulary-expanding words, and tells an adventure tale with characters many kids can relate to. Author Dav Pilkey struggled in school, his undiagnosed ADHD making it hard for him to sit and focus the way other students could. Cartooning became his outlet, and his stories of underdogs are both silly and remarkably complex. The characters' names are all plays on words and phrases, and the good-vs.-evil plots balance humor and action with empathy and empowerment. Some adults feel these books are inappropriate or infantile, but the series is far more complicated than its endless barrage of toilet jokes on the pages, and young readers love them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how bravery is shown in the Captain Underpants series. Why do George and Harold fight evil when they could just run away and make it someone else’s problem?
Which character’s special abilities would you like to have, and why?
Why do you think some people consider this series inappropriate for kids? Do you think anything about it is inappropriate?
- Author: Dav Pilkey
- Illustrator: Dav Pilkey
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic
- Publication date: September 1, 1997
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 10
- Number of pages: 121
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: December 31, 2019
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