REVIEW: Captain Underpants

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It’s Banned Book Week, and I’m celebrating in my own way. Fun Fact: Captain Underpants is currently America’s “most banned” book series.

banned book weekCaptain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
by Dav Pilkey
The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic)
ages 7-10

Captain UnderpantsThe Premise: George and Harold are a couple of fourth graders who don’t enjoy school. These friends use their creative energies to produce their own comics (which are included in the book, elevating portions to the “graphic novel” genre). The star of their stories is Captain Underpants.

Thanks to the recap at the beginning of this, the Sixth Epic Novel, readers understand that Captain Underpants is actually Mr. Krupp, cranky school principal. Way back at the beginning of the ongoing saga, George and Harold hypnotized him. Now, all it takes is a snap of the fingers for Mr. Krupp to strip to his tighty-whities, don a cape, and save the day. (Tra la la la!)

Personal Opinion: I like tongue-in-cheek humor and general silliness, so I dove into Captain Underpants with high hopes. Without a doubt, Mr. Pilkey is both creative and clever. He composes amusing warning labels for his chapters. Sly remarks about “imitateable behavior” are undoubtedly directed at critics. His descriptions of mucus introduces readers to an impressive adjectival array. And I can even understand the appeal of George and Harold, who are smart “in a way that couldn’t be measured by quizzes or worksheets.”

But I would never, ever put this book in the hands of my child.

The story opens with detailed instructions on how to play a messy practical joke involving ketchup packets and toilet seats. The “hero” is an authority figure who’s repeatedly humiliated in public. Adults are portrayed as obstacles to fun. George and Harold use their (oft misspelled) comics to pick fun at others. All in all, it’s a heaping helping of mockery, rebellion, disregard, and bullying.

And I would never, ever put this book in the hands of my child.

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