Dav Pilkey and “Captain Underpants”

Booker T. Washington: American Educator
February 9, 2021
Anna Julia Cooper
March 8, 2021

Dav Pilkey and “Captain Underpants”

David Murray “Dav” Pilkey  Jr., known as Dav Pilkey is an American cartoonist, author and illustrator of children’s literature.  He was born on March 4, 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio.  One of Pilkey’s best known children’s book series is Captain Underpants.

Pilkey was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) and dyslexia as a child which resulted in frequent reprimands for his behavior in elementary school.  While sitting in a desk in the school hallway, Pilkey created his Captain Underpants character and began making comics about his unlikely hero, who valiantly defends “truth, justice and all that is pre-shrunk and cottony” (reading rockets). He has said that his struggles with ADHD and dyslexia channeled his creativity, gave him confidence, and led to his drawing, telling stories, and creating original comic books.

Pilkey entered his first book, World War Won in a national competition in 1987 for student authors and won in his age category.  The book was published as part of the award.  

The book series, Captain Underpants, revolves around two fourth grade Ohio children named George Bear and Harold Hutchins as well as Captain Underpants, a superhero from one of the boys’ own created comic books. Captain Underpants becomes real, accidentally on purpose when the boys hypnotize their ill-tempered principal, Mr. Krupp.

The first Captain Underpants book was released in 1997. The series currently includes 12 books, two activity books, and 11 spin-offs.  The series won a Kids’ Choice Award on April 4, 2006. As of 2014, the series has been translated into more than 20 languages and more than 80 million books have sold in the world.  The United States alone has sold more than 50 million books and DreamWorks Animation made an animated film adaptation in 2017, which received positive reviews.

 Captain Underpants was frequently on the banned book list and was reported by the American Library Association to be the most challenged book series in 2012. The book series has been specifically banned in certain schools for being unsuitable to the age group as well as encouraging children to disobey.  Furthermore, those who complained did not like the toilet, potty or scatological humor which is humor pertaining to bodily functions.

However, in his defense, Pilkey has stated, “I’ve heard from parents, teachers, and kids alike that they’ve helped turn non-readers into readers. I’ve even had kids tell me they’ve “graduated” from reading my books to longer and more complex stories.”

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https://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned frequentlychallenged/21stcenturychallenged#2012

http://ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacybannedfrequentlychallenged/21stcenturechalleged/2002/index.cfm http://lmcac.org/censorship-article/state-of-censorship-unabridged-contributions-from-our-participants/