My children discovered Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books when my son was in second grade. Cuddling together on the sofa, I read the stories to the kids, complete with vocal effects. I often found myself laughing out loud at Pilkey’s more subtle expressions of humor and getting surprised glares from the kids. They got the potty jokes, the superhero flying about in his underwear battling lunch ladies and purple potties. I enjoyed the chapter headings, the fast pacing that poked fun at the reader’s expectations, and the constant, somewhat crazed use of alliteration.
Pilkey’s omniscient narrator is never far from the action, watching, tongue in cheek, as the plot progresses through expected and unexpected twists. He starts telling a story and then remembers: “But before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.” Pilkey used time travel in the series before, but in this one he goes back in time to tell the story of how Harold and George met and got to be friends. Time travel is the main source of tension in this book -- the narrator tells us that Tippy’s jump back in time is going to create the famous Banana Cream Pie Paradox. If you have not heard of this famous paradox, do not be alarmed. All is explained, complete with illustrations.
Like the rest of the series, the ninth installment contains George and Harold’s comic books, filled with age-appropriate illustrations and spelling mistakes. There’s also the usual amount of slapstick comedy and potty humor. I personally love it. I wanted more of the chapter headings that I enjoyed in the previous books. In this book some titles just signaled the passage of the days, but I can see how this style works better for a book about the unreliability of time.
I am not fond of back stories, and I was not crazy at first about following the difficulties of George and Harold as kindergarteners, but as the book wound up to its dramatic end, I realized that Pilkey created the perfect Banana Cream Pie Paradox. I cannot wait for the tenth book to come out. I want to know how he’s going to get his characters out of the perfectly funny and ridiculously insane mess in which he left them.
People refer to the Captain Underpants series as a good choice for reluctant readers. I agree, but I think there’s something in them for everyone to enjoy. Even, or perhaps especially, for adults. If you do not laugh enough in your daily life, pick one of these up, remember what it was like to be a child, and get a good hearty chuckle at some of those potty jokes. It's healthy for you.
Do you have an age-inappropriate book that makes you laugh?