Author: Dav Pilkey
Year published: 1997
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Number of pages: 128
Recommended age: 7 to 12
Child Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
Summary (from Amazon): When naughty George and Harold hypnotise their headteacher, they accidentally create the greatest superhero in the history of their school — Captain Underpants! His true identity is so secret that even HE doesn’t know who he is… but he’s fighting for truth, justice, and all things pre-shrunk and cottony!! If you’re a naghty villain like the diabolical Dr Diaper, watch out! Captain Underpants has wedgie-power on his side, and he’s coming your way.
What it’s about: The book is about two boys named George and Harold who are really good friends. They like to go in George’s tree house and write comic books about a superhero called Captain Underpants. One day, George and Harold play all kinds of tricks at a football game and they ruin the game. Mr. Krupp, the mean principal at the school, finds out that it was George and Harold that caused all the trouble and he made a video of them doing everything. He makes them wash his car, bring home lots of homework, and cut his nails. George and Harold get a 3-D ring that can hypnotize anyone and they use it on Mr. Krupp to turn him into a chicken, then a monkey, and finally, Captain Underpants. Mr. Krupp takes all his clothes off except his underwear and uses the curtains as a cape. Captain Underpants runs away and stops some bank robbers from stealing money then he gets arrested, but the two boys help him escape. Then Captain Underpants gets mixed up with two robots who take him to Dr. Diaper, an evil man-baby who wants to take over the world. Then the two boys shoot fake doggy doo-doo with their slingshot under Dr. Diaper’s bum. Then there’s a fight between the two robots and the kids and the kids win the battle and save the day with Captain Underpants. George and Harold un-hypnotize Mr. Krupp, but every time Mr. Krupp hears a snap he turns back into Captain Underpants.
What I liked and disliked about it: I like the part where they bring Dr. Diaper to the police station and tie him to the pole with underwear on his head and put a sign on him that says “Arrest me!” I think that George and Harold are funny and I would want to be friends with them because then they wouldn’t do bad stuff to me because we would be friends. But, I’m nothing like George and Harold. I like the part where they jump on the robots to kill them even more. I think that Mr. Krupp is funny when he’s hypnotized but he’s like a villain when he’s not hypnotized. I like him better when he’s Captain Underpants. I think Dr. Diaper is funny and a villain because he actually is a villain. He’s very mean because he wants to take over the world by using a machine to try to make meteroids fall on people that are good.
I didn’t like the pictures of Captain Underpants in the comic book because they didn’t look like anything and it didn’t look real – like he actually looks.
My bottom line: I loved this book because it was very funny. I think that boys my age and older would like this book and I would really like to read more Captain Underpants books.
What it’s about: This book introduces us to George and Harold, two fourth-graders and best friends who are known for “cracking jokes, pulling pranks, and causing mayhem at school”. Their nemesis at the beginning of the book is Mr. Krupp, the principal at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School (adults take note of the nod to the real ‘Jerome Horwitz’, also known as Curly Howard of the Three Stooges). When they are not being horrendously naughty, they create comic books about a superhero called Captain Underpants. After a series of particularly appalling stunts which in reality would have cost the school thousands of dollars, Mr. Krupp uses video surveillance of the boys committing these ‘crimes’ (because that’s what they are) to blackmail them with a list of demands ranging from simply asking them to behave, banning smiling and laughing, to washing his car and mowing his lawn. Fed up, the boys hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing he is the superhero, Captain Underpants. The boys follow along with Captain Underpants in foiling Dr. Diaper’s plans to take over the world.
What I liked and disliked about it: Let me begin by saying that while my daughter listened in when I read this book to my son, she flatly refused to review this book. We’ll call that a 0 star rating from her! I decided to review this book because it made the Top 100 Greatest Books for Kids recently compiled by Scholastic and was critiqued by myself on this site. I was a bit harsh about this book so I felt it was only fair that I read it and give it a fair shake. Ok, I’ve read it – I don’t like it.
This book (and likely the entire series) relies on flash, shock, and gimmicks to engage the reader. One would need to completely suspend disbelief, have no concept of the link between real actions and real consequences, and not be concerned about any positive message whatsoever. For example, George and Harold do very, very, very bad things; yet Mr. Krupp, the principal is portrayed as the villain (turned superhero through hypnosis). The boys engage in a series of stunts that would get them arrested and sent to a youth detention centre in real life; but what happens in the book is that the principal blackmails them. Remember, this is a kids’ book. I had to (grudgingly) explain to my children what blackmail even is!
There are some parts that are even offensive. In George and Harold’s comic book, the boys yell “Help! The inedible hunk just ate up 15 folding chairs and the gym teacher!” The ‘principel’ responds “Oh, no! Not the folding chairs!” Perhaps I’m just sensitive to the diss to teachers because we are in the midst of a teachers’ strike in British Columbia, but I found this incredibly disrespectful. In fact, the relationships between the boys and any of the adults in the book are all portrayed the same way with Harold and George being extremely disrespectful – not the best role models.
There is a “Flip-O-Rama” section in the middle of the book, presumably intended to simulate animation. This is not a novel concept. Flip books, which required you to flip pages rapidly with your thumb, appeared in Cracker Jack boxes generations ago and they were done soooo much better than this. This is really just a gimmick and the result is that those particular pages are coming out of the book. Well, it’s not such a big loss, really.
Hmmmm…a redeeming quality…let me think…ok, I suppose that the boys’ creativity in writing and illustrating their own comic books is good.
My bottom line: Let me see…I’m squeezing out a single star only because my son was entertained by the book. I feel it has very little value with regards to literacy (blackmail may be the most complex term used). I cannot decipher any positive message and frankly, I’m quite concerned about how really, really bad behaviour is minimized. There are better books – – really! Seeing as my son gave the book 5 stars, I gave it 1, and my daughter will never admit she even read it, I think this validates the very purpose of this website as a forum for discussing books and literacy among and between caregivers and children.
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