Since 1982, the same year the Supreme Court ruled that students’ First Amendment rights were violated when Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was removed from school libraries, free speech advocates have been observing Banned Book Week, September 22-28. Even though the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to ban such books, last year almost 500 books were still banned from libraries across the nation. Just last month, a North Carolina school board voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” from a high school library. The book that is subjected to the most banning though is a children’s book, “The Adventures of Captain Underpants”.
“Captain Underpants” is a children’s novel series by American author and illustrator, Dav Pilkey. The series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and Captain Underpants, an aptly named superhero from one of George & Harold’s comic books, that accidentally becomes real when George and Harold hypnotize their megalomaniacal principal, Mr. Krupp. The book series includes 10 books so far.
This week Anne was able to checkout from the elementary school a copy of one of the “Captain Underpants” novels for me to read. I expect that it will be a quick read, fourth grade and all. I also expecting and looking forward to plenty of fart jokes and the like. We first encountered Mr. Pilkey’s brand of humor, when our boys were young. Back then he was writing the likes of “Dogzilla” and “Kat Kong”. Two picture books where family pets threaten to destroy the world. Since I haven’t read the book yet, I cannot yet hazard a guess as to why “Captain Underpants” is so banned. I suspect that it is the bathroom humor, but could it be that it teaches 4th graders to ridicule and question authority? Maybe I am attracted to these books, because I’ve too shared a similar alter ego as “Captain Underpants”. My alter ego was Underwear Dad, arch-rival to Style Boy (Dan), but since he has moved out, Underwear Dad is pretty much confined to the dresser drawer now.