Captain Underpants – Dav Pilney
What can you say about a book that young boys love, teachers and school librarians hate (generally ~ or at least disapprove of) and have characters such as Captain Underpants (the superhero), Dr. Diaper (the evil villain, also known as the school principal) and make use of rubber doggy doo-doo and Wedgie Power? Well, apparently you can say a lot. While reading this book in a public place, not one adult was able to pass by without exclaiming “Captain Underpants! I know this book”! And several complete strangers felt compelled to tell me their stories about the love their son has/had of it, while also expressing a slight distaste for it. The words “potty humor” kept appearing.
Well, this little book has this effect on adults. Much like RL Stine. Academics, teachers and many parents love to hate these books. However, some young readers love them. Especially young male readers. And if this love with potty humor gets them reading, and keeps them reading then Dav Pilney is doing his job. Captain Underpants is the creation of 2 pranksters – George and Harold. Troublemakers, these practical jokers manage to get into numerous scrapes and pranks. They are the boys in class that often made teachers and classmates groan.
Of course, it is possible to discuss in great detail the pros and cons of reading fine writing, great literature, creative storytelling versus what might be called trashy books. But with reading experiencing an alarming decline in the US and young male readers often leading this trend it is much better to keep them to reading so they feel comfortable, enjoy it, and do it with greater ease. This might just help them to stay on the reading path.
However, maybe getting young people to read, and love to read isn’t really what it should be about. Despite Captain Underpants offering to keep young readers glued to the page apparently it tops the list(s) for being the most challenged book, especially in 2012. HERE, HERE, and HERE. It actually is on the Banned Book list. It makes you wonder why? With television full of so much material that isn’t appropriate, video games that have little or no merit beyond hand /eye coordination in the application of weapon use how harmful and damaging is a book with potty humor?
Maybe some of the people wanting to ban the book should actually read it.