THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS
By Dav Pilkey
Published by: Scholastic; Reissue edition (September 1, 1997)
Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were 12 books in the Captain Underpants series.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants is just ridiculous… and seemingly the dreamscape of young boys. The humor and text treatment is potty mouth, full of dumb gags and jokes, rife with crazy robots and other made-up machines, and pretty unbelievable overall. It’s a chaotic mess–and really funny stuff.
The actual format of the book is kind of brilliant. It starts as a traditional chapter book: text of short, easy sentences, simple illustrations and an easy-to-follow story. And then it explodes. First there’s a comic book-style section, and then it’s back to text. Then hilarious flip-page sections (with only two pages per action sequence), and finally a very satisfactory end to a completely impossible story.
I love that this is absolutely dialed into the silly young boy’s mind. This is an exploration of imagination and joy and general goofiness. Even on the page it rolls and kicks and flies with drama and energy.
I do worry about the amazing amount of spelling errors (intentional) in the comic book section (it is supposed to be written by one of the fourth grade protagonists). Sometimes the spelling is so off it’s hard to know what is intended. But, as a mother of one who at 20-something is still a bad speller, it’s definitely a real-world element. I won’t quibble with this—I don’t think the Captain will make bad spellers out of good ones.
Here’s the important thing: the prevailing philosophy on literacy is that young girls will read anything, but young boys are a much pickier bunch. They need boy main characters or action or swashbuckling drama. If Captain Underpants gets boys to sit and read, I’m a believer of Wedgie Power.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….