Ah, Captain Underpants. I feel for your beleaguered book soul. For the second year in a row, Dav Pilkey’s bathroom-humor rich series has topped the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books.
O Captain, my Captain, your supposed nastiness beat out, ahem, E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Seriously? I was just in the midst of writing about what I’m reading with my kids, ages 10 and 7, when the 2013 “challenged books” list was released. And what are we reading? Why, Captain Underpants, naturally.
Do I find Dav Pilkey’s graphic novels juvenile and tiresome? Well, yes. Do I find them offensive or questionable? No. Not in the least.
And I say that as a mom who catches grief from her kids about all the things everyone else is allowed to read/watch/do, and how deprived they are, courtesy of me. For example, the 10-year-old is allowed to read the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, the 7-year-old is not. They don’t watch “The Simpsons,” because, well, not all animation is for kids. And their video games are limited to things such as Disney Infinity or bowling on the Wii.
But Pilkey’s books seem to be dead on with their target audience of elementary school children, whose motto is bring on the potty humor. One of my kids’ favorite songs is “Mama Tooted” by Kellar Williams. Of course they love Captain Underpants. Find me a child who isn’t amused by things like wedgies, talking toilets or a doctor whose last name is Diaper. That’s where they live, and it was that way when I was a kid too. If anyone thinks they are going to curb toilet humor in elementary school age children by disallowing the Captain Underpants books, well, that’s just naive.
People have cited rude language (I guess Poopypants isn’t exactly for polite company) and violence in the books, but it’s certainly less objectionable than what passes for most children’s television programming these days. After the list was announced, Pilkey said in a statement that he was surprised that “a series with no sex, no nudity, no drugs, no profanity and no more violence than a Superman cartoon has caused such an uproar.”
I have to agree. Even Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that rates children’s media for age-appropriateness (and my go-to resource when I have doubts), says the books are fine for most children ages 7 and up. As a comparison, “The Simpsons” is rated for age 12. And “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Not even on the site.
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