A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
There’s challenging vocabulary in each book, including "archeologist," "dumbfounded," and "emanating," and some broad concepts about biology and other sciences.
Despite the unending toilet humor, there are positive messages, including do the right thing, and strong themes of friendship, empathy, and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Fourth-graders Harold and George battle evil, try to do the right thing (especially in later books), and are strong friends to each other. Most adults in the series are villains, evil aliens, or otherwise worthy of battling.
Violence & Scariness
The boys get in a lot of cartoonish fights, and every book is a battle between good and evil.
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Potty humor galore, but all age appropriate. Some name-calling, including "idiot," "annoying slob," "dumb," "fat."
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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.
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.
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.