The author of the Captain Underpants books is working to withdraw one of the children’s books from the shelves and from school libraries. (DreamWorks Animation)

The author of the Captain Underpants books is working to withdraw one of the children’s books from the shelves and from school libraries. (DreamWorks Animation)

COLUMN: Underpants and a time for a change

An author has chosen to withdraw one of his children’s books from further publication

Underpants made news headlines, and some people are not happy.

The headlines had nothing to do with a debate over the merits of boxers or briefs, nor was the topic a lingerie catalogue or the airing of dirty laundry. Instead, this was about the decision to stop publishing a children’s book by Dav Pilkey, the author of the Captain Underpants series.

On March 31, Pilkey announced he and publisher Scholastic would no longer publish his 2010 graphic novel, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future. The reason for the decision had to do with racial stereotypes Pilkey said were harmful to Asian people.

“I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better,” Pilkey said.

READ ALSO: ‘Captain Underpants’ book pulled for ‘passive racism’

READ ALSO: 6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

This was an unusual move for Pilkey. His Captain Underpants books, rife with potty humour and characters such as Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants, Frankenbooger, Doctor Nappy Diaper and Turbo Toilet 2000, have come under fire many times.

Some schools have banned the series for insensitivity, offensive language, encouraging disruptive behaviour and more.

Until now, Pilkey has not removed any of his books. His wacky potty humour is still on the shelves.

The announcement is not the first time a decision has been made to stop publishing books because of content issues. In early March, 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would no longer publish six of the Dr. Seuss titles because of racist and insensitive imagery.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” read a statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Pilkey’s approach went further than the Dr. Seuss Enterprises approach.

“My publisher, Scholastic, has stepped forward to share my responsibility and together we are ceasing all further publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future, and actively working to remove existing copies from retail and library shelves,” Pilkey’s statement read.

The apology and the decision to stop publishing the books have not been well received by all. Some pundits have said the move is an example of “cancel culture” – ostracizing someone for questionable or controversial statements or behaviour. However, in the case of this decision, the “cancel culture” criticism falls flat.

While an online petition had been circulating about this book, the decision to stop publication was announced by the author and the publisher. It did not come from a third-party source.

Besides, Pilkey is no stranger to controversy. Over the past two decades, his works have been some of the most challenged children’s books. Despite past criticisms, Pilkey has unapologetically continued to provide his offbeat stories for young readers.

Why would an author choose to withdraw a book from the shelves now, especially after ignoring critics in the past?

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk was published just 11 years ago, in 2010. Have society’s values changed that much during this time frame?

Perhaps society did not change as much as Pilkey’s personal values and standards.

Sometimes, a change of attitude or opinion comes with a deep regret for past words or actions as well as the need for an apology and a promise to do better.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BooksColumnist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The small fire was in the Big Eddy. (Contributed)
Revelstoke grass fire extinguished

The blaze is the first of the season in our area

Twin falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of the mountain parks whose draft management plan is now available for review. (Claire Palmer photo)
Local input sought to shape future of mountain national parks

Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are amongst those seeking input

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

(Natalia Cuevas-Huaico - Kelowna Capital News)
Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

New parking meters have been installed on Main Street, Ellis Street, Front Street, Nanaimo Avenue and Padmore Avenue in Penticton. (City of Penticton photo)
Pay parking now in effect in downtown Penticton

A spot downtown will now cost you $2 per hour

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department, photo from Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page
The Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department. (Facebook)
South Okanagan fire crews battle two blazes one-after-another

The two fires were likely caused by discarded cigarettes according to the fire department

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

Most Read