Dav Pilkey is the creator of the New York Times bestselling kids’ series, Captain Underpants. Recently, he took a little time away from his Captainly duties to answer a few questions for ParentLife readers:
T&TO: What should every parent know about Captain Underpants?
Pilkey: I purposely designed each [Captain Underpants] book so they would not only be fun to read, they’d be easy to read. Each story has short chapters and pictures on every page, but the humor is aimed squarely at third and fourth graders (and above). My goal was to present kids with a series that would give even the most reluctant readers a feeling of success.
T&TO: What makes writing Captain Underpants worthwhile for you?
Pilkey: I feel very motivated by all of the positive feedback I get from parents and teachers and librarians. They tell similar stories, always about a kid who refused to read until they were introduced to Captain Underpants—then everything changed…I just heard from a grandmother the other day who had to yell at her granddaughter to STOP reading (apparently it was way past her bedtime, and she was under the covers with a flashlight).
T&TO: According to ALA, Captain Underpants books are among the “most-challenged” books by parents and librarians. Why?
Pilkey: The reason the Captain Underpants books have been challenged by a small handful of “concerned grown-ups” is usually because of the humor. These books do tend to involve villainous toilets and booger monsters and things like that. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for most kids, but I understand that there are some grown-ups out there who are not amused by such things.
One angry lady in California complained to her local newspaper that certain characters in my books had engaged in name-calling and had “no moral value.” Oddly, she was referring to the villains. I remember thinking, “Aren’t bad guys supposed to behave badly?”
I actually think kids are smart enough to get the point of these silly books of mine. They realize that the bad guys are evil and the heroes are loyal, brave, and good-hearted. Kids totally get it, and fortunately most adults do too.
T&TO: Any last thoughts for our readers?
Pilkey: Every month I get hundreds of original hand-drawn comic book adventures written and illustrated by kids all over the world. Just last week I got two 16-page full color comics written and illustrated by a twelve-year-old from Australia. Earlier this year, I got some comics from a kid in Thailand. I couldn’t read them, but the illustrations were beautiful.
The amazing thing to me is that these comic books aren’t assignments. Nobody forced those kids to make an original comic book. These are things that kids have decided to do on their own—for fun!
It’s going to be exciting to see what happens when these kids grow up!
Mike Nappa is an author of more than 50 books. He is also the founder of Nappaland Literary Agency and a former book acquisitions editor. He is featured each month in ParentLife magazine and in Trends and Truth Online on the ParentLife blog.