An interview with Dav Pilkey, author of the wildly popular “Captain Underpants” book series for kids. The Bainbridge resident appears at the University Bookstore on Sept. 11.
Here’s the weird thing about potties and underpants, Dav Pilkey said.
When you’re two and three, it’s almost all adults talk to you about. Potty training and knowing when to go and the quest to wear “big boy underpants.”
“Then as soon as you master the art, you’re never allowed to talk about it again,” the children’s author said. “And I think because adults get visibly upset when you do, there’s a lot of power behind it. And a lot of humor, too.”
‘Captain Underpants’ creator Dav Pilkey
7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, University Bookstore,
4326 University Way N.E., Seattle (bookstore.washington.edu).
That explains why Pilkey’s hilarious children’s series, “Captain Underpants,” has sold 70 million books worldwide. The newest and 12th installment, “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot,” will bring him to the University Bookstore on Friday, Sept. 11.
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The series follows two friends, George Beard and Harold Hutchins — named for Pilkey’s childhood literary loves, “Curious George” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” as well as the two Bailey brothers of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They rebel against their overbearing teachers by hypnotizing their principal and turning him into their comic-book creation, Captain Underpants.
The book made news because in it, George and Harold meet their future selves — and while George had a wife and two kids, Harold had a husband and twins. No big.
“I’ve known these kids for the last 20 years and I always thought that Harold might be gay,” Pilkey said. “I wanted to show that they have been true to themselves and live happy, healthy lives. I wanted them to be happy in the future and in loving relationships.”
As if to offset any criticism, Pilkey wrote a piece in The Guardian last month, including this wonderfully unapologetic passage: “I understand that people are entitled to their own opinions about books, but it should be just that: a difference of opinion. All that’s required is a simple change. Instead of saying ‘I don’t think children should read this book,’ just add a single word: ‘I don’t think my children should read this book.’”
DreamWorks Animation is making a feature film about the brief-wearing caped crusader, to be released in 2017. Pilkey described it as “a bit of a mashup” of all of his Captain Underpants books, which is fine with him.
“I just get bored when a movie is exactly like a book,” he said. “I want to be surprised, and I think the audience does, too.”
Pilkey, who lives in Bainbridge Island with his wife, grew up in Cleveland, where his dyslexia and ADHD got him into a lot of trouble in school. He was often sent to sit in the hall, where he started drawing comics. “Now it’s my mission to go to schools and talk to kids and say, ‘There is hope for everyone, even if you have certain challenges,’ ” Pilkey said. “For some kids, it’s the first time they ever heard that.”
Pilkey never heard it at all.
“I assumed that if you didn’t do well in school you were not going to do well in life,” he said. “I’ve never known anyone who struggled the way I did and turned out OK.
“I am very surprised,” he said. “And very happy.”