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Arts & Entertainment

Librarian Mara Alpert reviews the latest 'Captain Underpants' adventure

Book cover of
Book cover of "The Adventures of Captain Underpants."
Book cover of
L.A. Public Library children's librarian Mara Alpert.
Mara Alpert

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After an absence of six years, the amazing (if scantily clad) Captain Underpants returns in "Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers: The Ninth Epic Novel," and reminds us just how brilliantly author/illustrator Dav Pilkey got a generation of kids giggling … and reading. Children's librarian Mara Alpert joins the show to discuss her review with Madeleine Brand.

Mara's written review:

Okay, first off, I’m reviewing this for grownups and not kids, because kids already know Captain Underpants. It’s grownups that may never have had the opportunity to experience what just might be THE awesomest series ever written about a brainwashed school principal, and the two super smart fourth graders who … um, brainwashed him.

So, what you need to know is that there are these two boys, George and Harold, and they’ve been best friends and collaborators since kindergarten. They write and illustrate comics and fight the good fight against the forces of evil. And don’t worry if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series (though you absolutely should), because George and Harold have very kindly included a comic that catches you up on the highlights of the first eight books.

When we last left the boys in the Eighth Epic Novel ("Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People"), things were really bad. They were about to be thrown into jail for robbing a bank (which had really been robbed by their evil twins from an alternate universe) when they were “rescued” (you can’t see me, but I’m doing finger quotes) by Tippy Tinkletrousers (the super villain formerly known as Professor Poopypants), who got them trapped in a corner with his ice tray.

Only that’s not the way it was supposed to happen.

We get a thumbnail review of the “Banana Cream Pie Paradox,” which explains why time travel can be a really bad idea, and then we get a series of flashbacks, showing all the different things that would have happened, had it not been for Tippy Tinkletrousers messing with the whole time-space continuum thing.

If Tippy Tinkletrousers hadn’t gone back in time, Principal Krupp (who is sometimes Captain Underpants) would have ended up in jail, and George and Harold would have ended up in Juvenile Detention (which they note isn’t much different from their elementary school, except in Juvie they have art and music teachers … and library books).

Tippy Tinkletrousers (I just like saying his name) is also in jail serving an eight-year sentence for attempting to take over the planet with the intent to enslave humanity. He tricks the warden into letting him build a giant Robo-Suit, which he will use to capture Captain Underpants and George and Harold.

And he almost succeeds, but Captain Underpants comes to the rescue and Tippy flees into the past and messes up the whole time-space continuum thing AGAIN, by interfering with kindergarteners George and Harold. Yes, we finally get the complete story of their first meeting and early collaborations in both comic book creation and bully busting, and it’s fabulous.

There’s more. Much, much more. There’s plenty of “laffs,” but also some big words and big ideas, hidden under the humor like spinach in the spaghetti sauce. But you grownups will have to brave the children’s section of the library or the bookstore or your own child’s bedroom and snag a copy of "Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers," and read it for yourself. And just remember, grownups (and kids). Time Travel = very bad. Just say no.