Captain Underpants: Series Overview
Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series is an action packed, fast paced series of books for the elementary age set packed full of absurd humor and ridiculous characters. The series was created for and is aimed directly at children in grades 2 through 4, and it does not miss the mark.
The series appeals to the particular sense of humor children of this age possess, particularly young boys. The series has periodically fallen under attack, in part because of the crude humor. The books are packed full of jokes involving poop, gas and wedgies, which happen to be the things that leave 8 year old boys rolling on the floor in laughter.
As the series begins, readers are immediately introduced to George Beard and Harold Hutchins, a pair of fourth grade boys who are best friends. The boys are described as generally good children who tend to get themselves into trouble from time to time. Throughout the series, the boys have a habit of creating mischief and mayhem while dodging the wrath of their evil teachers. The boys also have a hobby of creating comic books. George is the writer and Harold is the illustrator. The boys agree that a superhero who wears underwear for a uniform would be utterly hilarious, and thus Captain Underpants is born. The crude comic book series become wildly popular on the playground, much to the dismay of the boys’ teachers and principal.
The humor and hijinks do not stop there. Captain Underpants is brought to life when the boys hypnotize their greatest adversary Principal Krupp to get out of one of their many punishments. Principal Krupp as Captain Underpants springs into action before the boys can reverse the hypnosis. Throughout the series, the superhero battles absurd enemies such as talking toilets, aliens masquerading as lunch ladies, and evil robots with ridiculous superpowers such a super sonic wedgies.
The books are also filled with fun diversions that will keep even the most hyperactive child engaged. George and Harold’s comics introduce the storyline and “Flip-o-ramas” (silly animations created with the flip of a page) and humorous mock warnings are littered periodically throughout the books.
As an added bonus for adults who are reading the books along with their children or students, there are also moments of astute cultural observations and criticism that even the most cynical adult will enjoy.
Often the children who are the most difficult to coax into reading are the ones the series appeals to most. Pilkey was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at a young age and understands that some children learn differently and the trouble that can cause. While the characters in Captain Underpants thrive on playing pranks that often cross the line between funny and terrorizing fellow students, it is that type of fast paced humor that keeps children who would rather spend their time on anything other than reading, turning pages. The Captain Underpants series gets children reading and keeps them reading. The series can be a gateway to other anti-authority novels as the children grow such as Huckleberry Fin, Invisible Man, and The Catcher in the Rye.