Surreality Bites

(I can show you the teeth marks)

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Books for Boys
“I need next month’s book club selection,” I told Kristin, the proprietress of my local used book store and the founder and host of the book club I attend. At the last meeting she had made apologies that the selection for the June meeting had not yet come in, so I was here to pick up a copy since she had sent me a message on Facebook that it now was. “And I have a very serious request in regard to children’s literature. Do you have any Captain Underpants books?”

Kristen leaned forward and returned my own serious expression. “I have tons of Captain Underpants books. Tons. Want me to show you where they are?”

“Yes, it’s a Captain Underpants emergency at my house,” I said.

She led me over to the children’s sections and showed me half a shelf full of Captain Underpants books.

”Looks like we hit the jackpot,” I told my 6 year old son.

I’d bought the first Captain Underpants for him the weekend before on a whim, and he loved it. I have never seen him laugh like that when he wasn’t being tickled. He couldn’t breathe. For starters, the books use words like underpants, underpants and fake doggie doo-doo a lot, which is about as funny as funny can get when you are a 6 year old boy. Because they are chapter books, they take us 3 nights to read. At a visit to my father’s house after we read the first part of the first book, Sweet Pea had asked if we were going to read more of it that night.

“You bought him a Captain Underpants book?” my stepmother asked, appalled. “I mean, I bought it for Courtney’s boys when they 8 and 9, but I didn’t realize what was in it. Are you sure it’s, uhm, appropriate for him?”

The books have been known to make the banned book lists that are compiled every year. In 2001 they were banned in one district due to concerns that they caused unruly behavior among children. In 2003, they were banned for insensitivity and being "unsuited to age group," as well as encouraging children to disobey authority (as if kids never disobey authority unless they are encouraged). In 2005 they were challenged for offensive language (words like “poopy” crop up from time to time) and modeling bad behavior. In 2006 they were challenged for anti-family content, being "unsuited to age group" and violence.

From what I can see, the violence is mostly against things like villainous robots and evil people-eating talking toilets with teeth (they spit out all the teachers they ate in the end and the teachers were fine, so the books aren’t gruesome or anything). The main appeal of the Captain Underpants books is that they appeal to small boys. They love them. The humor is crude, the two little boys who are the main characters are scamps, and the grownups are all annoying and bossy. They are satire written not just from a child’s eye view, but a boy child’s eye view. Little boys are down with belching and farthing and jokes about toilets. My son was in love after the first book.

After my stepmother showed her disapproval, I made a point to get the rest of them.

“Okay, they have number 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8 here,” I told Sweet Pea. “We’ll have to keep an eye out for number 4.”

“There’s no #4 there?” Kristen asked. “Hold on, I bet I can find you a number 4 in the back.”

I looked on the back of one of the other books.

“You’re looking for the one called Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants,” I called through the door to the secret hidden stash of books in the back of the store.

“Found it!” Kristin has an 8 year old son herself, so she is no stranger to the world of Captain Underpants. She came out of the back and tossed the book on top of the stack I had in my hand. “Do you mind putting them in one of our baskets?”

“You have baskets?”

“Over by the door in a stack, see? Chris got them, and thought it might encourage people to buy more books if they could carry them all around easier. If he’s watching on the security camera, it would be nice for him to see someone using one.”

I didn’t need a basket (the stack of books, as many as there were, wasn’t that big), but I dropped my books into the top plastic red arm basket, hooked it over the crook of my arm, and waved at the security camera in corner as I carried it to the register in case her husband was watching.

“Why did grandma think I shouldn’t read these?” Sweet Pea asked that night as we settled down for story time (which he had been looking forward to all day). “Did she think that I don’t know not to do that stuff? I know not to do that stuff. It’s just in a story.”

And he does know. He is not a practical joker, my Sweet Pea. When he’s not in the middle of an emotional outburst, he’s actually a very law-and-order sort of guy, one of those people who think that rules are rules and should be followed to the letter. When the boys get in trouble in the Captain Underpants books, he understands the justice of them getting sent to the evil principal’s office. He just thinks its funny that they can hypnotize the principal and make him strip down to his tighty-whiteys, wrap a red curtain around his shoulders and then parade around believing he is a superhero named Captain Underpants. Because really, that is pretty funny.

“I know it’s just a story. I know you know better. Grandma worries too much. Are you ready to read some more and find out what happen next?”


Maybe he will learn to appreciate good taste and decorum in books some day. Or maybe not. As one of the women I work with pointed out to me today, “I don’t care if you’re 5 or 65, farts are funny until the day you die.”

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And now I know what I am getting my young students in my homestay house as a going away gift. :)

They will love you for it. Their parents? Maybe not so much. :)

They are quite popular among 6th-grade boys, as well. Not so much with the girls, however...

Girls may like them, but as girls part of their job is to look down on fart joke and the like, and only giggle when those unsophisticated boys are out of earshot.

This trend continues until adulthood. :)

I'll bet his REAL Grandma would've thought they were funny. At that age, anything that gets them to read is a GOOD thing!

I think my mom would have rolled her eyes at them. I had some doubts that they might be too old for him (they do feature the antics of a couple of 4th graders), but he gets them. The ones he doesn't get, Jeff and I do. The truth is, they are very fun to read to him.

Crude, but fun.

Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants <--- is the household favorite.

Recommend!! A++++ WOULD BUY AGAIN.

Our daughters seem to enjoy as much as anyone. Maybe they're weird though.

Edited at 2011-05-17 04:42 pm (UTC)

I don't think they're weird; I kind of enjoy reading these to my son. They are very funny, and some of the jokes are in there for the adults to get (there are a few references that not a lot of elementary kids would understand).

We're reading them in order, so we'll be hitting Professor Poopypants next week.

I've had a copy of Captain Underpants in my house for about 3 years *before* Ian was even a lustful thought. Got it at a Chron book sale for Cliff's nephew who was about the right age at the time, but I was too afraid to give it to him because of what his aunt would've thought and said (she didn't keep too many thoughts in her head). I may have to start reading it to Ian soon.

They just started reading chapter books at Sweet Pea's school and I picked it up on a whim. It has pictures on every page, though, so it's a good "starter" series.

But the books are chock full of bathroom, underwear, and snot humor. Sadly, book number 6 is proving to be problematic for me. It's Captain Underpants and the Bionic Booger Boy. It's making me gag when I try to read it, so Jeff is going to have to finish that book for him because (since my pregnancy 6 years ago) I can't tolerate gross things anymore. The book is heavy on the snot, phlegm, mucus, boogers and the like. My son thinks it is cool. If I were 6 years old, I might think so, as well.

I'm such a wus.

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