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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
May appeal to reluctant readers and get them interested in other books. May also help parents set boundaries with their kids about their own expectations for appropriate language and humor.
Pursue your creative passions. Enjoy a vivid imagination, especially with a good friend at your side. On the other hand, iffy decisions such as prank-pulling or hypnotizing an adult without his consent and forcing him to embarrass himself are played for laughs.
Positive Role Models
George and Harold value their friendship with each other. They do fight "evil" -- in this case, a diaper-wearing scientist. But in a very concerning scene, they hypnotize Mr. Krupp without his consent and force him to do "funny" things like cluck like a chicken. They tell him to strip down to his underwear and remove his toupée as they laugh at how he becomes a real-life version of the superhero they designed, Captain Underpants. Overall, adults are exaggeratedly shown as lazy, foolish, and cruel, such as when Mr. Krupp blackmails his students for having caught their pranks on tape.
In the author bio, Pilkey mentions his ADHD and dyslexia diagnosis as a child, which brings a unique perspective to the book. George is Black and Harold is White. But most other characters are light-skinned, and race is never discussed. Furthermore, Pilkey leans on humor that isn't inclusive, such as visual gags related to Mr. Krupp's belly bulging out of his pants, baldness, short stature, and/or old age for low-hanging laughs.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp without his consent and compel him to act like various animals and disrobe down to his underwear for laughs. George, Harold, and Mr. Krupp (in his hypnotized state as Captain Underpants) run from the police. Cartoon violence ensues: explosions; Captain Underpants is snagged by a truck by his cape and driven down the street; an adult crashes through a door. Slingshots, wood planks used as bats to beat up robots, someone is bound by rope. A "Laser-Matic 2000" machine blows up. Dr. Diaper threatens the heroes with a futuristic gun.
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Multiple mentions of "doggy doo-doo." George and Harold name-call Mr. Krupp as a "pudgy old guy."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of Captain Underpants has bathroom humor that many kids might find funny. It may be a good fit for reluctant readers, but be aware that it's the start of a huge series that your kids may get hooked on. Cartoon illustrations enhance borderline mean-spirited jokes and cartoonish action that includes explosions, killer robots, and physical beatings. One gag in particular goes too far: George and Harold hypnotize their school principal without his consent and make him act like an animal and strip down to just his underwear as they laugh uproariously at him. Both Captain Underpants and Dr. Diaper are depicted shirtless wearing only underwear.
Is It Any Good?
While no one would mistake this for fine literature, playful and engaging artwork by writer-illustrator Pilkey just might hook a reluctant reader. But The Adventures of Captain Underpants is full of borderline mean jokes, puns, bathroom humor, and disrespectful behavior, so if you or your kids can't stand the thought of using a piece of "fake doggy doo-doo" to fight a diaper-wearing mad scientist, then this book isn't for 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.