A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Asian stereotypes in the book can provide a teachable moment about how sterotypes are harmful. Adults can also point out that dinosaurs and cavepeople did not in fact live at the same time, though they do in this graphic novel. The book intentionally misspells words to indicate that kids wrote the story.
There are good vs. evil themes as Ook and Gluk fight to stop both caveman Goppernopper and J.P Goppernopper, CEO of "the world's most evil" corporation. When author Dav Pilkey and his pubisher pulled the book from pubication in March 2021 due to its perpetuating racial stereotypes of Asians, he pledged to donate his advance and all of his royalties to selected chartities, including groups dedicated to stopping violence and hatred against Asians and to promoting diversity in children’s books and publishing. He said in a letter posted on his YouTube channel: "I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better."
Positive Role Models
Ook and Gluk may be rowdy, but they're working to stop the evil Goppernoppers from enslaving their families and friends and destroying the planet. They show good hearts at other times, too, such as when they rescue a baby dinosaur's mom or stop caveman Goppernopper from marrying Ook's sister. The portrayals of kung fu teacher Master Wong (in traditional dress with dashes for eyes) and Chinese philosophy (reduced to stereotypical proverbs) have been described -- including by author Dav Pilkey -- as "harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery." For this, he apologized in March 2021, as he and his publisher pulled the book from distribution.
Violence & Scariness
Some comic book violence when the boys are chased by dinosaurs or when they're tied to Goppernopper's torture machine. In one scene, the boys -- and their kung fu teacher and his daughter -- are threatened with a ray gun, which CEO Goppernopper uses on his caveman ancestor.
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Words include "poo," "butt," and insults like "jerk," "idiot," and "dum-dum."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is the first book in a graphc novel series by Dav Pilkey, author of Captain Underpants, and is written in the same spirit. First published in 2010, it's about two friends who use kung fu and principles of Chinese philosophy to stop the evil Goppernoppers from enslaving their family and friends and destroying the world. However, in March 2021, publisher Scholastic and Pilkey, halted the book's distribution for its perpetuation of passive racism by stereotyping Asians. Pilkey said in a letter posted on his YouYube channel that the book was "intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution. But ... it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people." Some parents may also be bothered by the book's intentional misspellings (like "torcher" for torture), meant to show it's written by kids. Crude language and insults include "poo," "butt," "jerk," "idiot," and "dum-dum." And a dinosaur paints the side of a building with a naked picture of Ook and Gluk, showing their bottoms. (Dinosaurs and cavepeople live at the same time in this book.)
Is It Any Good?
Th jokes in this silly graphic novel are right on target for the age. (For example, a billboard advertising "I drink delishous warm apple cider from Pitsburgh fruit juice company!!!" is zapped with a laser gun and changes to "I drink arm pit juice.") And readers will appreciate the "flip-o-ramas" that come with each chapter (flip pages back and forth to watch Lily the dinosaur vomit, for example).
But even through all the rowdiness, Ook and Gluk try to do good for their friends and the planet. And Ook begins a sweet romance with Lan, the daughter of his kung fu teacher, who agrees to become his caveman wife. However, due to what author Dav Pilkey called in a statement the book's "harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery," he and the publisher pulled it from circulation in in March 2021.
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.