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'Captain Underpants' Author Talks New Book, Getting Kids to Read and the Return of 'Caveman'

Bainbridge Island-based author and illustrator Dav Pilkey shares his latest work

Published on: October 07, 2016

Cover of 'Dog Man' by Dav Pilkey
Dav Pilkey's latest book, 'Dog Man' | Photo credit: Dav Pilkey

Children’s author and illustrator (and Bainbridge Island resident) Dav Pilkey may be best known for creating the beloved Captain Underpants series but he’s got a new character to love. Meet Dog Man, a crime-biting superhero. 

In anticipation of the new book, I asked this local superstar author a few questions by email (and thanked him for giving my nephew, a hesitant reader, books to love). Here’s what Pilkey had to say.

As a fellow local who dreams of island living, I’ve got to know: What’s the best thing about living on Bainbridge Island? And what’s the worst thing?

I think the loveliest thing about Bainbridge is the easy access to the sea. You can grab a kayak and a life vest and be on the open water in a matter of minutes. I can’t think of any downsides, but of course, I work from home and don’t have to take the ferry everyday.   

You've talked about being a kid who had extreme hyperactivity and trouble learning how to read and write. What advice might you have for kids who face similar struggles?

I always talk about the challenges I endured as a kid when I do public speaking. I think it’s good for kids to hear that we all think and learn in different ways, and that challenges might just be advantages in disguise. I wish I had known that there are people out there with challenges similar to mine so I didn’t have to feel so alone. 

Any thoughts for parents of kids with learning issues? 

The best advice I can give is to share what I experienced: I had two parents who loved and supported me, and believed in me even when it seemed that nobody else did.  That made all the difference for me.

OK, as a fan, tell me: Are you ever going to doing another Caveman book?

Yes. I wrote the sequel last year when I was in Japan [Editor's note: Pilkey’s wife is from Japan; they often visit]. I actually wrote it in a cave near our home that I sometimes kayak to. I think it may be the only book about cavemen written in an actual cave. I’m hoping it will come out in the next three or four years, but right now I'm finishing up the illustrations for the third Dog Man adventure, Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties, which will be out next fall. 

My nephew loved your books even though he didn’t love reading. How did you know that creating the Captain Underpants series was one awesome way to make kids want to read? 

Well, Captain Underpants was a character I created in the second grade. I used to talk about him when I started doing school visits as a young author. The response I was getting from kids encouraged me to revisit the character. 

Did you have any particular reader in mind while writing the Captain Underpants series?

I usually write for the kid I used to be. I preferred to read funny books and crazy adventure stories when I was young. I loved robots and monsters and anything to do with time travel. So Captain Underpants was tailor-made for my former 10-year-old self.  

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The pictures and flip pages were included because I often had trouble getting through books with page after page of text. Especially with the type of dyslexia I have, reading text that is broken up into panels, like in graphic novels, makes a big difference in how I read. The art also helps with vocabulary, since the pictures give contextual clues to the meanings of the words.

Captain Underpants books are often banned because some say they contain “offensive language.” What are your thoughts on being banned?

It surprised me when Captain Underpants first appeared on the Banned Books List considering that the books don’t contain nudity, profanity or mature themes. (In fact, the main characters have been called immature a time or two.)

Books by many authors I admire, including Mark Twain, Maya Angelou and Harper Lee, have ended up on the Banned Books List, and I consider it a great honor to be on the same list as them. When I’m creating books, I try to write for the kid that I was ... Now I’m also writing for the kids I meet in schools and bookstores across the country. They’re the ones who inspire me today.

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