Top positive review
Oh to be a kid again
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2014
It was not long ago that I treated an irrepressible 8 year old boy at the children's hospital where I worked. This kid was something else. He was smart, articulate and bubbly. We got to talking about books, and I told him about Roald Dahl's 'The Twits' (one of my long-standing favourites by that author). "Have you read Captain Underpants?" he asked me. Then he proceeded to regale me with the story of Mr Krupp and Harold and George. I was intrigued.
At the follow-up appointment, my patient brought me one of his own copies of Captain Underpants, so I could see what he was going on about. I promised him the next time he came for an appointment, I would have read the whole series. His mom told me later, "You're the only doctor here who's willing to read Captain Underpants. You're doing pretty well."
And here I am. I read Captain Underpants and I thoroughly loved it. It is one of the most banned books in libraries in the US, which probably goes to show you that it is extremely effective at engaging its target audience. I laughed in delight, reading the adventures of Harold and George, and remembered all the childhood hours I spent with my brother thinking up practical jokes that landed us in trouble again and again. I remembered the stink bombs, the fart spray, the whoopee cushions, and simply remembered what it was like to be a kid.
I have read a few of the reviews that express concern that the series encourages defiance of authority, but I have several points to make in response. Firstly, the authority figures in the book should be challenged. Quite frankly, if kids had to attend a school where the principal punished naughty behaviour by making them clean his house and mow his lawn, I would mount a protest. That is a highly inappropriate punishment. Secondly, I seriously doubt that reading Captain Underpants is going to turn a kid into a criminal or miscreant of the justice system. If you really looked at the kinds of things that turn kids into criminals, reading books is not one of them. Thirdly, Captain Underpants was wonderfully imaginative. It turns mundane things into objects of great potential (nefarious or otherwise). I love that it encourages kids to dream and imagine, and not be confined by the dictates of our time. If not for challenging ideas, we wouldn't know that the earth revolved around the sun, or that gravity makes apples fall to the ground, or that spores from a fungus (penicillin) could be critical in treating infection.
Let's let kids enjoy being kids. Heaven knows, growing up isn't much fun. And for the love of all that is cotton-y and pre-shrunk, if they love the Captain, let them read it.