The Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel: Captain Underpants, Book 1 Book Poster Image

The Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel: Captain Underpants, Book 1



Gross bathroom humor book may appeal to reluctant readers.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

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.

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

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Adult Written byMediaMomPhd September 27, 2013

Teaches Bullying

All of the books in this series contain a lot of bullying, which is often presented as justified. There are also portrayals of bullying through the use of technology. In the 9th book in the series, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Re-Turn of Tippy Tinkletrousers, technology plays a central role in the antics of Harold and George. In the story, Harold and George seek revenge on the school bully, Kipper, by carrying out a variety of pranks on Kipper and his friends. For example, they send Kipper’s friends embarrassing texts that appear to have been sent from Kipper’s phone. George and Harold were engaging in cyberbullying, which is the use of electronic technology to repeatedly harm others, either physically, socially, or psychologically. Depending on the age of respondents and how it is defined, surveys indicate that 20-40% of youth have been the victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a serious problem among youth today. I would suggest that if you teach young children that it is funny to dehumanize others (be it bullies or women) and use technology to humiliate them, this is how we end up here as a society. Am I saying that reading Captain Underpants causes children to grow up to become cyberbullies? Of course not. But I do find it deeply disturbing that children, who should be learning about respectful and responsible use of technology, are getting a very different message from this book series. I do think there is a connection between the perpetuation of these messages (e.g., cyberbullying can be justifiable and is funny) and the ever-increasing tendency for youth perpetrators of bullying and violence to use technology to proudly disseminate their “conquests”. If you are going to let your child read these books, try to use them as "teachable moments" to discuss bullying of all types.
Parent of a 8 year old Written byLipstick6 May 9, 2011

Completely Unbeneficial.

If you want your kid to start making bathroom jokes at the table, buy this book. I really think it's closer to the iffy side than anything else. I had bought a couple of these for my son, but we read them together and I was so grossed out. When did it become acceptable for children to speak this way in society? When I was a child, we never learned to speak in such ways. We were taught it was socially unacceptable and rude, and as our mother always told us, nobody would ever invite us to their dinner table with mouths like that. There are so many better things for children to be reading than these.
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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