Graphic novels are all the rage these days. They are loaded with pictures, which draw kids in, enticing them to read more. Most of them are full of action, too, which keeps them interested and reading. One of the most popular and well-known graphic novels is The Adventures of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Novel by Dav Pilkey. Here’s why I think it’s so popular.
George Beard and Harold Hutchins are best friends and fourth graders at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. They cause a lot of trouble in general, but especially in school.
One of the things that didn’t get them into too much trouble was that they made up their own superhero, Captain Underpants. He’s bald, wears a cape, and flies around in his underpants.
The boys would draw their own comic adventure stories about Captain Underpants. Then they’d sneak into the office at school and make copies of their comics and sell them to the other kids.
One day, at one of the school football games, things go terribly awry. Someone has sprinkled the cheerleaders’ pompoms with black pepper, making everyone sneeze. And the band starts spewing soap bubbles when they begin to play their instruments.
You can guess who is behind this mischief. George and Harold think nobody will ever find out that they are the ones responsible.
They soon discover that the grouchy principal, Mr. Krupp, has evidence against them. They are busted in a big way, and they have to do everything he says from now on.
Naturally, they get sick of this very quickly, so they soon hatch a plan to get out of their misery. You’ll have to read for yourself how they do it, but it involves some robots, slingshots, and fake doggie doo-doo. You’ll also discover exactly how Principal Krupp saves the day.
The book is full of large, simple, cartoony illustrations, one on every page or two. One of them shows how the boys change the sign at a flower shop. It says, “Pick your own roses!” They remove four of the letters and leave it reading, “Pick our noses!”
My favorite part of the book, and one I know kids will love, is the “cheesy Flip-O-Rama animation technique.” You grab the corner of one page and flip it back and forth, so you see the picture on that page and the page right after it. The pictures are like two cells of an animated movie or cartoon, and if you flip it fast enough, it looks like a cartoon on tv.
I love the one when they hit the robot’s head with a board, and it smashes down. It really looks like it’s moving.
This is a great book for kids who like cheesy, non-realistic action that’s kind of silly and full of the types of things a typical kid might imagine. Stuff like confronting bank robbers, hypnotizing people to do silly things, and being pulled on your skateboard behind a truck.
Reluctant readers, and especially boys who want action, will get drawn in by the pictures. It might get them motivated to try drawing their own comic superhero series, too. All in all, The Adventures of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Novel by Dav Pilkey is an easy graphic novel read for kids ages 7 to 10