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‘Captain Underpants’ Series Stars In This Year’s Banned Book Week; Suck It, ’50 Shades’

'Captain Underpants' Series Stars In This Year's Banned Book Week; Suck It, '50 Shades'It’s the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week again, that time of year when we celebrate literacy’s fight against the censorious prigs who make it their business to make sure that children and even adults are protected from BAD BOOKS. Not badly-written books, of course — those are doing just fine. Many of the books that end up getting pulled from school and public libraries are actually quite good, but they have content that makes some people nervous, like sex or bad words. Not infrequently, they include some genuine classics, like The Grapes of Wrath (burned in 1939 in East St. Louis, and banned many other places) or Slaughterhouse-Five (also burned in Drake, North Dakota, in 1973, and banned most recently — 2011 — from the high school in Republic, Missouri).

This year’s list of the ten most-challenged books has a new #1: the entire Captain Underpants series, a goofy superhero parody written and drawn by Dav Pilkey. These books are challenged for pretty much the same reason that they’re hugely popular with the under-12 set: They are filled to bursting with mild potty humor. That’s it: poots, toots, boogers and the eponymous hero, Captain Underpants, the Waistband Warrior. But apparently they’re threatening enough to all that is decent and holy that they have had to be removed from libraries nationwide, because they contain “offensive language” and are “unsuited for [their] age group.” That last one is just plain wrong, as any parent of a ten-year-old knows — the more honest complaint might be that they’re suited entirely too well to their target audience. Also, some parents object to the deliberate misspellings in the main characters’ homemade comic books, because they fear that their precious punkins will be tainted by loose standards — a complaint that no longer seems to dog Huckleberry Finn.

On the other hand, maybe these books are dangerous. My son, Kid Zoom, loved ’em when he was nine, and now that he’s in high school he’s taking honors everything, but he’s also an occasional writer for Wonkette. So there’s a cautionary tale.

Some other entries on this year’s list of the top ten most-censored books include, at #2, Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award- winning YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which has made the list every year after it was published in 2009, Justin Richardson’s gay penguin indoctrination manual And Tango Makes Three (at #5), Toni Morrison’s Beloved, (#10) and the endurance champion of banned books in schools, Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark series, which has been unsuited for its age group ever since the first book in the series creeped out young’uns in 1981. I first came across that title in an ALA Banned Book Week listing while I was working on my undergraduate degree in English Education, back in the old days when Ronald Reagan was president and I had a hairline.

Oh, and also, a newcomer to the banned books list for 2013: EL James wretched Fifty Shades of Grey (#4), which started as bad Twilight fan-fiction and became a masturbatory sales phenomenon. The ALA doesn’t say, but we’re going to assume that this one has mostly been challenged at public libraries, since I can’t imagine many school librarians putting it on their Must-Have list. At least, not for the kids. In any case, it’s probably a flasher in the censorship pan, and isn’t likely to even be around long enough for more than another year on the ALA list.

For literary merit, we’d go with Captain Underpants over Fifty Shades anyway.

[Banned Books Week / Top 10 Challenged Books of 2012]

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  • Lizzietish81

    I need to find my copies of Scary Stories, but they may be two moves back. The newer editions have a different artist, which is lame because half the awesome of those was the disturbing artwork.

  • jodyleek

    They’ll get my son’s Captain Underpants books when they rip them from his sticky, slimey, booger-filled hands. Eww!

  • AntiDerpomeme

    Ug, that “50 Shades” book should be banned for the quality of its writing alone. I couldn’t get more than 50 shady pages through it.Captain Underpants, on the other hand, is sheer brilliance. Only a humorless troll wouldn’t love the silly subversiveness of villains forcing an adversary to wear an Egg Salad Sandwich on his head. Maybe it’s because I never mentally matured past 12-years-old, but they still make me giggle to this day.

  • natl_[redacted]_cmdr

    The ALA’s Banned Books Week is much better than the USDA’s Tainted Meat Week.

  • one_who_wanders

    I can’t get over the fact that the top 10 is so mutable. Captain Underpants wasn’t even in the Top Ten the previous two years. Though And Tango Makes Three appears to be evergreen.

  • radicalhw

    Dav Pilkey and Toni Morrison on the same literary list?! I’m actually very happy about this…

  • Spalding

    Two daughters 6-3, LOVE Captain Underpants, now I would not mind if they banned the Captain Underpants CD that we listen to forever at at time on road trips. Do the Wedgge Wiggle, The big But Tango, That song about the Hamsters..

  • x111e7thst

    the adventure of the 50 shades of brown underpants

  • BuffaloGal

    I am the sole staff at a small , unfunded library in a poor neighborhood of Buffalo , which pretty much allows me to do whatever the hayl I want in here. This banned book thing – I’m not all that against it. Just last week I removed Glenn Beck’s stupid ass Christmas sweater book and dropped kicked it to the used book sale room downstairs. Also banished are any books by Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin , anything in the Left Behind series and, for my own personal reasons, home decorating books that have the word “Glittertastic” anywhere on the cover.And not a twinge of guilt !

  • UnholyMoses

    Our district has Captain Underpants in the library and a few classrooms because it GETS KIDS TO READ. And it can be damn funny for a kid…and, yes, the random grownup who also plays with Legos more than he should and gets into lightsaber duels with his 9-year-old.You know, randomly.

  • FauxAntocles

    When I was a kid, we had to make our own poop jokes!

  • lljktechnogeek

    I have a yearly tradition: order something off the most challenged list from Amazon, buy some form of sugary baked goods (donuts, cookies, etc.), and deliver both to my local library.

  • gingerland62

    many parents think their children are idiots, in reality, the parents are the idiots.

  • mtn_philosoph

    The big bad book when I was in high school was Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird. Of course we all read it.