Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons-- The Pilkey Line

It's not your imagination-- there were six years between book #8 and book #9, but now they are coming at a fast and furious rate, with book 12 , Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot, coming out in August of 2015. There will also be a Dreamworks movie coming out in January 13 2017, 20 years after the initial publication of the series!

Mr. Pilkey, of course, is fantastic, and really understands that he is writing for children and makes no pretenses of wanting to write something literary that language arts teachers will feel a need to foist upon students. He includes lots of things that make ME laugh, although flip-o-rama on an e reader just doesn't work. Captain Underpants is brilliant on so many levels, but one of the things I especially appreciate is the wide age range to which it appeals. Kindergarteners can enjoy it, but so can middle school students and even high school students, so I'm not sure why I use the phrase "The Pilkey Line" to refer to a demarcation between what elementary students and middle school students will read, since who doesn't like Captain Underpants?

That said, I am hoping that the series wraps up soon. I'd like to see Mr. Pilkey do something else that would appeal to middle grade readers, and the books make me nostalgic for the past, which is silly and not constructive.

20578969Pilkey, Dav. Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 (Captain Underpants #11)
August 26th 2014 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from

I loved that early on in the book the events of previous books are recapped, and we are issued the reassurance that it's okay if we are confused-- everyone in the book is, too! However, I was able to get a pretty good grasp of this one. George and Harold come back from their previous adventures exhausted, and manage to sleep through tests, which results in Harold being retained in the fifth grade, Mr. Krupp's evil plan to separate him from George. The then use the robosquid time travel pants to go back and take the tests, but accidentally create two of themselves, which results in problems. When all four George and Harolds show up at school, teacher think they are dreaming, strip off their clothes in order to dance around the school, and get carted off, including Captain Underpants, leaving no one to fight off the Turbo Toilet 2000. Eventually, Cracker's eggs (which the boys put in the
 treehouse at the beginning of the story) hatch and release Hamsterdactyls, who manage to defeat it.
Strengths: So many funny things! Nana and Timmy's explanation of the big fight scene was my favorite-- they seem to be a recurring thing, although I don't really remember them in previous books! the Hamsterdactyls are adorable, and the teachers stripping off their clothes-- why is this so funny? Oh, right. I've become a 12 year old boy in my reading habits, which is why I will never be asked to serve on the Newbery committee. Oh, well!
Weaknesses: Seriously, who would ever want to ban these? Weird people who don't understand children, that's who!

20578975Bass, Patrick Henry. The Zero Degree Zombie Zone
August 26th 2014 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from

Bakari Katari Johnson would like to be elected hall monitor, but he is shy and classmate Tariq is always chosen. He gets up enough courage to decide to run, only to have Tariq's friend Keisha give him a hard time. Then, out of the blue, ice zombies appear in the school hallway and demand their ring back. Bakari has no idea what they're talking about... until he sees the ring on Keisha's finger. In order to obtain the ring, he trades a marble that he got from his grandfather, who has passed away. His friend Wardell, trying to be helpful, lets Tariq and Keisha know how important the marble is to Bakari, so they have more power over him. Still, Keisha (who found the ring in the hall that morning) seems to have more of a clue how to harness the ring's power. The four classmates manage to get enough hall passes to keep the ice zombies at bay, and eventually manage to dispatch them, using the power of the ring and Bakari's marble. 
Strengths: This seems to be designed to appeal to the Captain Underpants demographic, and has great pictures, goofy situations, and African American characters on the cover, which is fantastic. It probably has more appeal on the elementary side of the Pilkey line.
Weaknesses: This is very message heavy, with the bullying and election, and that's not really want readers of this type of book are looking for. I doubt that any schools have students be hall monitors any more because of liability issues and the fact that a lot of school have School Resource Officers. There wasn't a a great explanation of where the ice zombies came from, either. Still, I can see this being a big seller in elementary book fairs.

You know, even more props to Dav Pilkey. Captain Underpants has been culturally diverse since 1997!

Sherry, Kevin. The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet
September 30th 2014 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC from

This came down on the elementary side. I was hoping for a notebook novel (since it's 128 pages), but it read more like the world's longest picture book. I also was not entirely convinced of the Yeti culture. 

Authentic Yeti culture. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder about my job! And me! 


Stacy Dillon said...

Ha! Authentic Yeti culture! I think my littlest guys might just love it.

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