In a world full of internet, video games, endless movies and television, it can be difficult to ingrain the love of reading into our youth. Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s my generation had its share of distractions. For me it was comic books that demanded my attention. The events of Spider-Man, The X-Men, and the likes, were wonderful on Saturday morning cartoon shows, but I wanted, needed, more and diving into my brothers comic collections, and random bargain bin pick-ups helped me build a lifetime love of reading. I do not see the same patience for single-issue books aimed at an older audience in kids these days. I see my oldest nephew and that love that my brothers had shared with him, but my 12-year-old nephew cannot be bothered when there is Minecraft to be played and Vines to upload. The trick is fun, entertaining, instantly rewarding reads that can capture attention. Jedi Academy, which I recently reviewed is a great example of quick, simple, satisfying reads that young readers can gulp down easily. Today, I review a book that set that trend and built a massive following thanks to these very reasons.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants, the first mid-grade chapter book that has spawned a 12 book collection and spin-offs galore was published 20 years ago, in 1997. Originally printed in black and white, in 2013 the collection up to this point began reprinting in full colour. Despite the massive popularity of the series, since the beginning Captain Underpants has been the talk of controversial modern book bans. The issue not being with the scantily clad, middle-aged, balding man or, the excessive, purposeful, potty humour. Parents and schools believed the story promoted disobeying authority figures. Okay.
Our main protagonists are two grade 4 boys of Jerome Horwitz Elementary. George Beard and Harold Hutchins are categorized as trouble makers or practical jokers, but seem more like your average school boys, who love to make comics. Their home-made comic books are popular around the schoolyard and they are most famous for their work, Captain Underpants, the high flying, nearly nude super hero. After their child hating principal, Mr. Krupp blackmails the two students with a video of their pranks, the boys get fed-up with their principals demands. In the ultimate plan George and Harold order a 3D hypno-ring from a pranksters catalogue. Using the ring the boys jokingly hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing that he is the fictional hero Captain Underpants. Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well and suddenly ties a curtain around his neck and jumps out the window to fight crime. Now the kids must find their principal and find a way to turn him back before he gets in too much trouble. Across town the evil Dr. Diaper has notorious plans of his own. It may take the ‘Wedgie Power’ of Captain Underpants to save the day after all.
Obviously the greatest appeal to this story is the outrageously silly humour. When your antagonist goes by the name of Dr. Diaper you know you’re in for some giggles whether you are 8-years-old in body or heart. Besides all of the lighthearted fun this book features illustrations, comic books, and the introduction of the official “Flip-o-rama” with its “cheesy animation technology” of flipping a pages really fast.
This is an easy recommendation for all young readers. That is of course if you are not worried about the book ban. Everyone knows your kid may try to hypnotize their principal if they read this book. June will see the release of the long awaited animated film of the same name. So, be sure to catch yourself and kid’s up on the literature first. 5/5, the first volume is a classic with many great installments to follow. I have been reading these stories to my son since he was 2 or 3 years old and they have become a staple of silly entertainment. No matter how old you are, you can get into the childish potty humour and haves some ‘laffs’. And more importantly get your kids reading with a book series they can enjoy all to themselves.
Thanks booknerds, Tra-La-Laaaa!