There's just no stopping Captain Underpants – though many have tried.
In 1997 The Adventures of Captain Underpants, the first of the books in this series, was published, and controversy started just about immediately. Two years later the second book was published – Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (not just underwear, but toilets too!) and the lines were drawn.
There were those – librarians, reviewers, teachers, and parents who understood just what author Dav Pilkey was doing: using every tool he had to engage second through fourth grade kids – especially boys – in the ongoing epic saga of two pals – George Beard and Harold Hutchins. George and Harold, like many of the boys Pilkey wanted to attract, were not the most successful students; but they were creative, they were clever, and they were funny. And there were those – again, librarians, reviewers, teachers, and parents who objected to the potty humor, the bad grammar, the comic books, the pranks. Under the cloak of good intentions, they wanted to protect children from these "dangerous" books. And the good Captain has ended up on challenged and banned books lists ever since.
Through books with irresistible-to-kids titles like Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plight of Professor Poopyants and Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, the books thrived, the audience grew. The nay-sayers continue to say nay, but there are fewer of them and they don't raise the same kind of ruckus. A new adventure came out in August 2012: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. Fans will cheer to know that they won't have to wait long for another new novel: Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers will be released in January 2013.
Just as George and Harold continue to outwit and outlast the evil Mr. Krupp, their school principal, loyal readers of the books keep on reading. To find out why we asked Debra Marshall, Librarian at Wilson Elementary School in Coppell, Texas to gather some of her students together and talk about Captain Underpants.
Why do you love the books so much?
The unanimous response was, "They are funny and crazy! We like the flip-o-rama, and the comics."
Jacob – "There's a ton of humor in the stories, and since I have a good sense of humor, I really like the practical jokes."
Ethan – "Same here, they are just really funny and they are good books to read."
Roque – "I like all the comics throughout and the little kid drawings. Eat this! Makes me laugh."
Fernado – "The characters are funny."
Aiden – "Flip-o-rama, I just love to do that. Also the monsters aren't very scary, they are just funny."
Brett – "I like the flip-o-rama, too, and it's very funny and they spell the words wrong in the comics."
Dakota – "That talking toilet is just too hilarious, and I like Captain Underpants has a plunger that doesn't work. And the funny words like eat it or taste it."
Riya – "There are so many illustrations in the books, and they are interesting to look at over and over."
Webb-"You get to read and say the word, fart!"
Dakota – "It's really fun to collect all the books."
Talk about a favorite character and what makes him or her so appealing to you.
Dakota-"I like the toilets and the bad guys. My favorite is the Attack of the Talking Toilets, and especially when Captain Underpants has that plunger thing."
Webb –"The 2 little kids because they like to mix up the signs and make funny sayings."
Pedro – "Captain Underpants because he says Eat This, and then he tells everyone he is a hero, and he shoots underwear at people."
Brett – "Harold because on the 8th book at the end he got George into all this trouble by convincing him nothing bad would happen."
Riya – "Captain Underpants because he is always funny."
Alexandra – "Yes, Captain Underpants because he is very funny and fat, and because I like his underwear."
Andrea – "And he pulls his underwear really tight around him. It looks silly."
Aiden – "My favorite character is Captain Underpants because he makes being a hero fun."
Fernando-"I like him too because he is a superhero and he saves the world."
Roque – "Harold and George can hypnotize and make comix. It was awesome when they switched the National Fine Arts Academy sign to say National Fart Academy."
Ethan – "I like Professor Poopypants when he changes everyone's name to be funnier than before."
Jacob – "Tippy Tinkletrousers, and today's lunch is…"
Webb — "Nasty Toilet Peepee Sandwiches. It's so fun to say it!"
Do Harold and George remind you of any one you know?
Rousing response of "Yes, me!" from many in the group.
Dakota – "Yes, my baby cousin!"
Pedro – "I think they are basically good guys, they just get into trouble a lot."
What words in the stories do you think kids like to say?
What age should kids be to begin reading the series?
This question resulted in everyone talking at once. Most of the group first said First Grade because that is when they started reading the books. The thought was that first graders can read most of the words and understand what is happening in the different situations.
Brett, a second grader, said he started reading the books at the end of first grade and it took him a long time to finish a book, "but it was worth it!"
Jacob – "Anyone with a good sense of humor should read the books."
Pedro and Roque, brothers who moved to Texas from Spain, said they started reading the books in Spanish before they came here. Roque started reading them in third grade. Because of their experience, both thought the books translate well and are universally appealing to kids all over the world. Pedro said he started reading the books in English because "Webb taught me the words and talked me into trying it. I read them now in both languages."
Fernando, a native Spanish speaker, started reading the books in first grade even before he read in English. He said he studied the words so he could understand the story.
When are you going to stop reading the books? When will you be too old for them? Can kids get too old for them?
All in unison – "NEVER!!!"
Webb – "It's just hilarious. College kids could read it very fast, like in a day or two. They should."
Brett – "Not me, I'm going to read them forever."
Pedro – "I will read all of the books, however many there will ever be."
Riya – "They should go on forever!"
I remember buying Captain Underpants when it first came out for my school library. Some librarians wouldn't buy it because of the potty humor. What would you say to those librarians who might not want to buy the books?
Fernando-"Oh, come on. They belong in a school, and if I went to a new school and they weren't there I would call my parents and ask them to let me go back to my old school."
Andrea-"If you like people that wear underpants and are superheros, you just better read this book."
Dakota – "Well, Captain Underpants isn't real.
Webb – "It's just fiction."
Roque – "It's only a book. And, it brings out your imagination."
Alexandra-"It's a book and it makes me want to read."
Boy book, girl book, or everybody book?
All in unison – EVERYBODY!
What other books are you reading or do you like to read?
Fernando – "Captain Underpants, that's all."
Aiden – "I want to recommend Ninth Ward. And I'm reading the Ricky Riccotta series."
Andrea – "Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Junie B. Jones."
Alexandra – "Nothing else much."
Riya – "Big Nate."
Brett – "Super Diaper Baby."
Pedro – "Super Diaper Baby and Stink."
Jacob – "Alex Rider series and the Guardians of G'Hoole."
Ethan – "Harry Potter and Big Nate."
Roque – "Amulet and Wings of Fire."
Dakota – "What about 39 Clues?"
All – "Yeah!"
Ok, you have one more chance to say what you want kids all across America to hear. What would you like to say?
Brett – "Captain Underpants is awesome. Everyone should read it."
Webb – "Yeah, it's for everybody, even cannibals."
Everyone – "Yeah, just do it and read!"
ReadKiddoRead thanks everyone at The Wilson School, especially Debra Marshall, and
Brett – 2nd grade, Dakota – 3rd, Webb – 3rd, Andrea – 3rd, Alexandra – 3rd, Pedro – 3rd,
Riya – 3rd, Fernando – 4th, Aiden – 4th, Roque – 5th, Jacob – 5th, and Ethan – 5th