The Captain Underpants series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and Captain Underpants himself, the superhero alter-ego of Mr. Krupp, the cruel and antagonistic school principal, who first becomes Captain Underpants after being hypnotized by the two boys. The book series includes 10 books and 3 spin-offs, and won a Disney Adventures Kids’ Choice Award in 2007.
And according to the American Library Association, it also has the distinction of being the most frequently challenged book of 2012. It has appeared on the list in the past but this is the first year it made it to the top spot; reasons cited were “Offensive language” and “unsuited for age group”. And admittedly, the subject matter, primarily toilet humor and gross-out gags, as well as a subversive and somewhat anti-authoritarian message, might raise eyebrows for some parents. But as children’s librarian Laura Giunta explains in this recent essay, banned books week is all about
[celebrating] the freedom to read, even if that includes reading material that others deem to be objectionable or inappropriate. The freedom to read is linked to our first amendment rights, specifically that we are not only entitled to our beliefs, but that we have the freedom to express them without the threat of censorship. Public and school libraries have a duty to uphold these rights and to provide a forum for all ideas to be represented, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them all. As outlined in the Library Bill of Rights, the library is not simply a place to get books, but one that affirms intellectual freedom – that is, an entity that ensures equal and uncensored access to information for all people, including information that represents varying viewpoints, beliefs, or cultural perspectives…As we celebrate “Banned Books Week,” we celebrate the freedom to read, not just for ourselves, but for everyone, including those with different beliefs, views, and values than our own. We celebrate the freedom to be subversive and irreverent, to dissent against the majority perspective, to challenge societal norms, and to disagree with authority.
So consider picking up a copy of Captain Underpants (or any of the many other frequently challenged books) and enjoy not only the “Action”, “Thrills” and “Laffs”, but also the freedom to read whatever you wish.