Friday, March 15, 2013

Book 9: Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers

This was a refreshingly wild ride. Never mind the fact that the first chapter of book nine was basically a retraction of the final chapter of book eight. Never mind that the second chapter was a strange and comical demonstration of a time travel paradox titled The Banana Cream Pie Paradox. (By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed that demonstration.) Maybe it's the fact that I took a two-year break from the series, or maybe it's the fact that Dav Pilkey took a six-year break, but book nine has seemingly given the series new life.

It certainly wasn't the story I was anticipating. For one thing, I was expecting Tippy Tinkletrousers to take a larger role over the course of the story since his return was the focus of the title. Instead, his rampaging escape from prison and his brief quest for revenge against Captain Underpants were the focuses of chapters three through eight after which the reader could basically forget about him until he briefly reappeared in chapter thirty-one. He regained the spotlight in chapter thirty-two, but Tippy's role in the book (and presumably the remainder of the series) ended abruptly in the one-word chapter thirty-three. (I wasn't too crazy about the choice of illustration in chapter thirty-three.) He hardly seemed like a title character to me.

Anyway, the part of this story that I was able to get into was the flashback to five years ago, when George and Harold were in kindergarten and were confronted by an over-the-top bully problem. I read in another blog that this was Dav Pilkey's attempt to address bullying. I don't know if I'd call what he did addressing bullying as much as using bullying, which in a variety of ways has been an ongoing theme of the series, as a mechanism for driving the plot. He certainly doesn't recommend any positive strategies for dealing with bullies, though I wouldn't expect him to under the circumstances. Another running theme of the series has been a general dysfunction among the entire adult population forcing George and Harold to rely on themselves to solve their problems, so he certainly couldn't have had the two of them go to a grownup for help. I expect that if Dav Pilkey really wanted to address bullying in a way that would actually help children react and cope, this wouldn't have been his preferred method of doing so.

That said, I enjoyed the part of the story that dealt with George and Harold bonding and building a plan to fight back on the behalf of their fellow kindergartners. The combination of the intricate planning they went through to execute their plans and the comical reactions of their parents when they came upon the plans being carried out made for entertaining reading. The bullies gullibility and predictable overreactions to George and Harold's plans added to the fun. The intent of the series is absurdist humor and this volume achieves that goal with wonderful ease. It also fleshes out some of the back story of the boys' friendship, though I honestly never gave much thought to the origins of their friendship. All in all, I think it's safe to say that Pilkey is back on track with this installment. I look forward to reading book ten, though the conclusion of book nine touts ten as the final epic novel in the series. I don't know what to think about that. Is Pilkey looking for an exit strategy? Is he ready to move on, or is this just a ploy to leave readers like me wondering? We'll find out in the next epic novel, I suppose. 


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