A superintendent of a Michigan school district is warning parents that a Captain Underpants book for sale at the school’s annual book fair has a gay character, the Grand Rapids Press is reporting.
Every year, the elementary schools in the Rockford Public School District (Rockford is a suburb of Grand Rapids) participate in a book fair sponsored by children’s book publisher Scholastic (the publisher of the Captain Underpants series). Children (and their parents) can buy Scholastic books targeted to their age group, some of the profits are shared with the school, and everybody wins.
At this year’s book fair, one of the books for sale is the latest in author Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot (the 12th in the series).
— Bug in a Book (@buginabook) October 13, 2015
As it turns out, one of the characters in Sir Stinks-A-Lot, “Harold” travels in time 20 years into the future, where it’s revealed that he’s married to another man and has two children with him. The scene is brief and makes no mention of homosexuality beyond the fact that the two are married. The time-travel sequence ends, Harold returns to the present and resumes life as a fourth grader.
Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler felt that this required a warning to be sent home to parents. In a letter sent home this week, Shibler warns parents about the gay character.
“Our philosophy is to be as transparent as we possibly can when dealing with parents and their children. It was brought to my attention yesterday by an administrator coordinating the book fair. I try to be consistent and wanted parents to know. Within the plot of this story, there is a very brief reference to one of the featured characters traveling 20 years into the future to find he is married to another man.”
As of this post, it is not clear if any Rockford parents have complained about the latest Captain Underpants book being available at the upcoming book fair.
The American Library association reports that Captain Underpants books were the most challenged books in America’s libraries and schools in 2012, a fact which author Dav Pilkey at one time posted on his website.
— ScholasticKidsPress (@KidsPress) November 10, 2015
Most complaints centered around violence, disrespect for authority, and being “unsuited for the intended age group.”
“Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, is the gift that keeps on giving. Why? Because these popular, silly books are read by parents, with their children, all over the country. The potty humor makes parents roll their eyes and kids giggle. The absurdity of banning books in order to attack perceived moral problems is exemplified by this year’s winner.”
The books center around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, who created the titular character in their homemade comic books. When the boys hypnotize their school principal, Captain Underpants becomes real.
Scholastic, for its part, is not shying away from the latest Captain Underpants controversy. In a statement, the publisher notes that today’s children live in a variety of families, and the books are meant to be inclusive.
“Our goal is to encourage all children to learn to love to read in part by making available a wide array of titles for children to choose from. Children all across the country live in families with varied family structures and our authors are moved to portray these families in their books.”
Do you believe the Captain Underpants books are inappropriate for children? Share your thoughts in the comments below.