The Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel

Common Sense Media says

Gross bathroom humor book may appeal to reluctant readers.





What parents need to know

Educational value

May appeal to reluctant readers and get them interested in other books (see our list of other books that reluctant readers may appreciate, including some with a little more literary merit). May also help parents set boundaries with their kids about their own expectations for appropriate language and humor.

Positive messages

The boys help Captain Underpants fight against evil Dr. Diaper ... oh, forget it, kids are going to be too distracted by the gross-out bathroom humor to notice any message.

Positive role models

The silly pranksters do fight evil, but if you can't stand the thought of two boys "with a silly streak a mile long" using a piece of "fake doggy doo doo" to fight a diaper-wearing mad scientist, you may not appreciate their face-off against Dr. Diaper.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is full of gross bathroom humor that many kids find funny. It may be a good fit for reluctant readers, but beware: It's the start of a huge series, and if your kids get hooked, they might be stuck on gross-out humor for a while. Cartoon-style pictures enhance over-the-top jokes and fast-paced action.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Two silly pranksters use hypnosis to trick their principal into thinking he's the crime-fighting Captain Underpants. Dav Pilkey's wacky black-and-white illustrations on every page create a comic-book feel. The pictures enrich and expand the text, and often contain their own jokes. One whole chapter is a visual pun on \"graphic violence.\" Readers use Flip-O-Rama to animate a cartoon battle by flipping the pages back and forth.

Is it any good?


No one would mistake this for fine literature, but it may be a good pick for your reluctant reader: THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS is full of corny jokes, bad puns, bathroom humor, and rowdy, disrespectful behavior. If you or your kids can't stand the thought of two boys "with a silly streak a mile long" using a piece of "fake doggy doo doo" to fight a diaper-wearing mad scientist, then this book isn't for them. It's for kids who love a good practical joke and won't stop telling knock-knock jokes, and who'd rather be running around outside than reading.

Cartoon-style pictures enhance over-the-top jokes and fast-paced action.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about jokes. Some parents find the humor really inappropriate here for younger kids. What do you think? This might help parents talk about when certain kinds of jokes are appropriate -- and when they're not -- and what their own expectations are for language at home or at school.

  • This book is part of a whole series of other titles. Now that you've read the first one, do you want to read more? What makes them fun to read? Is it just the humor -- or is it also the comic book stylings?

Book details

Author:Dav Pilkey
Illustrator:Dav Pilkey
Topics:Superheroes, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little Apple
Publication date:January 1, 1997
Number of pages:121

This review of The Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 11 year old Written byjackson8888888888 February 19, 2011


Love it best book ever
Adult Written bya_adams April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

A Great Book for Avid and Reluctant Readers Alike

This is a beginner's chapter book, more obviously geared for boys than girls. While the bathroom humor can get out of hand, Pilkey always gives the kids a good laugh. What I like most about the series, is that in the end of some of the books kids can write in for "fun stuff" from Scholastic if they've "spanked themselves eleven times and been sent to time-out" for reading the "incredibly graphic violence," or "Gotten in Big Trouble for Shouting Ka-Bloooosh." All in all, it's a cute and very interactive series. It's ideal for a child who has advanced reading skills at an early age, as well as reluctant older readers. There's plenty of good vocabulary words, but the text itself isn't too dense to scare off new readers. Pilkey did an excellent job with this series. One caveat, however, when the protagonists self-publish their comic books within the book, there are intentional misspellings. Use them as an opportunity to point out phonetic spellings versus actual English usage.
Parent of a 6 year old Written byTrebuchet November 11, 2010

Lots of creative fun

The heroes of these books, George and Harold, are hardly good kids, endlessly pulling pranks and annoying people. But when there is a problem, they do whatever it takes to set things right, whether or not they are at fault. They are very creative, they don't take things personally, and they are quite forgiving and good-hearted. George and Harold do love potty humor, which I know annoys a lot of parents. My daughter thinks it's hilarious, and who am I to tell her what is funny? We talked about what is appropriate to say around people, and what might make others uncomfortable. And while potty humor isn't my thing, there is enough humor for adults that I don't mind when she reads them to me, which she insists on doing fairly often. I get the feeling Dav Pilkey genuinely likes and understands children, and the "About the Author" section makes it sound like the books came from his own childhood imagination. With so many moralistic, sanitized children's books for sale, I thought it was a relief to find some that were purely for fun. I know a lot of parents give these books to reluctant readers, but enthusiastic readers also like them. They also invite kids to make up their own superheroes and villains, and to try drawing and writing stories. The violence is cartoony, but it is in there, and parents trying to minimize exposure to violent stories might want to give them a miss.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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