February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Serving Truth, Justice, and Tighty Whities | The Captain Goes Digital

Judging by the enthusiastic reception received by Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers  (Scholastic, 2013), released last month, it doesn’t look like the Dav Pilkey-Captain Underpants phenomenon will be waning any time soon. While some teachers bemoan their students’ singular devotion to this under-dressed superhero, they will admit the stories have introduced many a reluctant reader to the pleasures a book can bring. Children now have access to the “First Epic Novel” on the iPad. Will adults consider all the sound effects “enhancements”? Unlikely, but kids will love them.


Fans of Captain Underpants—and of rude, over-the-top humor—are in for a field day: The Adventures of Captain Underpants: The First Epic App (Scholastic; $4.99; Gr 2-6) offers awesome animation and engaging activities. First is the complete Book-O-Rama, here in high resolution and full color. Viewers can read the story or listen to Mike West’s spirited narration with added sound effects and musical accompaniment. Pages aren’t turned per se; a swipe of the screen slides the characters to the next page, or morphs the background into the next setting.

Games, manipulable message boards, and even those flip-o-rama pages found in the books are embedded in appropriate spots. (Readers can choose to engage in these activities or not.) A jump from one page to any other in the text is via a collapsible bar at the bottom of the screen, while a bar at the top allows children to return to the main menu, to select chapters, or to exit to a game. Avatars to help track game progress are easy to create, but with a tap of a button one will be created (and named) for viewers.

Screen shot from The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Pilkey)
©2013 by Dav Pilkey

Activities include hypnotizing Mr. Krupp with the 3-D Hypno-Ring, catching Captain Underpants in the Skate-o-Rama, or slinging underwear at robots and the diabolical Dr. Diaper in an attempt to annihilate them in the Stretch-O-Rama. Beat Box 2000 is a music-making machine; as Captain Underpants flies across the sky, he triggers ka-booms and other, (often uncouth), noises to one of three catchy beats. Users can record their own sounds if they prefer. The games take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities, requiring the players to tilt and tap their way through various levels using different strategies; plenty of options keep the play fresh.

The app contains “no ads, no social media sharing, no in-app purchasing, no links to outside websites, [and] no location-tracking features.” With access to a full-length story, terrific animation, challenging activities, and loads of irreverent fun, this app will have fans cheering for the 16-year-old “Captain Underpants.”— MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, New York 

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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