An Evening with Author/Illustrator DAV PILKEY


How does an evening with children’s author Dav Pilkey begin? (well,after waiting in a looooong line wrapping all the way around Headquarters library…)

Waiting for Captain Underpants

Waiting for Captain Underpants

With, of course, a loud “Tra-la-laaaa!” yelled in unison by all the kids (and many of the parents) in the audience. It’s Captain Underpants’ typical call to action.

I had the fun opportunity to be part of this attentive and rambunctious crowd last night at the St. Louis County Library’s Author Event, celebrating the release of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT. (# 12 in the series)

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants



Dav Pilkey, who will have 60 books to his credit with 2016’s THE ADVENTURES OF DOG MAN, has revolutionized reading for boys especially. USA Today called him the “savior of the reluctant reader.” His short, graphic chapter books with their silliness, fast pace, and bathroom humor are a perfect fit for young readers. The kid-friendly author creates his tales based on his own elementary school experiences.

The Adventures of Dog Man

The Adventures of Dog Man

As a child who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia, he understood the power of pictures to tell a story. Even though he often found himself doing hallway detention for drawing in class, he couldn’t resist making more clever comics—to the delight of his fellow students and the dismay of his teachers.

“Underwear is not funny!” said Mr. Pilkey’s second grade teacher. “Grow up!” she cautioned him. “You can’t spend the rest of your life making silly books!”

Drawing favorite characters

Drawing favorite characters

Oh, how little she knew, and how very far Mr. Pilkey has enriched young readers with the delights of his underwear crew.

Some of his other titles include:

The Ricky Ricotta Series 

Dog Breath

Paper Boy

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk

Super Diaper Baby



Nowadays, the author prefers drawing in more natural spots, like along the beach in Japan when visiting his wife’s family. But even there, he still suffers criticism—from some monkeys that is. Mr. Pilkey shared a video of himself at work sketching, while several monkeys attempted to confiscate his pens and offer vocal commentary on his work-in-progress.

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics




At the end of his presentation last night, Mr. Pilkey made a point about perseverance. He showed a picture of a scowling egg and a happy potato in boiling water. “Don’t let adversities overcome you,” he said. “Rather use them to build on. In boiling water, a potato softens but an egg becomes hard.”



Many young readers in the crowd wore red capes, similar to Captain Underpants. On back of the capes was the message, “Reading is Power!” Thanks, Mr. Pilkey, for enhancing children’s literature with your comic characters and delightful illustrations and proving that strong reading muscles really do rock!

How to Get Boys to Read

In recent years this has become an ongoing educational issue: boys are falling behind girls in reading. This is a serious problem. Students who don’t read at grade level will not be able to succeed in school–or in the world.

A recent Wall Street Journal article presented interesting new information on this topic. A study conducted by Dr. Robert Weis of Denison University found that boys with video games available to them at home spent less time reading. It seems a rather simple and obvious finding, but it presents compelling evidence to the importance of limiting video play time. Instead, boys need easy and plentiful access to good reading material–which should be readily available through their school or local library.

Perhaps if parents spent more of their resources–time and money–on providing reading material for their sons and less on easy access to video games, there would be no literacy gender gap.

New Boy Books I’ve Been Reading

BIRD LAKE MOON by Kevin Henkes (published by Greenwillow) is a boy book that deals with issues of divorce and death. Twelve-year-old Mitch Sinclair reluctantly accompanies his mom to his grandparents’ lake house after his dad announces he wants a divorce. The tension mounts quickly as Mitch finds it hard to accept the divorce, and his grandparents seem less than enthusiastic about their long-term house guests.

Mitch adopts an empty house next door as his getaway place, but too soon the long-gone owners of the house return. They are a family of four–Mom, Dad, Spencer (10) and Lolly (7). They bring with them the sad memory of a first son who drowned in the lake eight years ago.
Mitch and Spencer become friends, even after Spencer discovers Mitch’s prank to release the family dog. They discover a bond in their losses–Mitch’s father and Spencer’s brother. Both of them come to realize they must rise above their problems and take control of their lives.
The book is well-written with characters many young readers can identify with. While this book is not a fast-moving action thriller, it offers a glimpse into modern life which many children can relate to and which they would find interesting. For those readers ready to try another Henkes’ novel, direct them to OLIVE’S OCEAN–another introspective book which deals with death and coming of age.
GHOST LETTERS by Stephen Alters (published by Bloomsbury) has a combination of adventure, supernatural, and historical elements. Gil–a fourteen-year-old who has just been expelled from McCauley Prep School because he copied a poem off the Internet and claimed it as his own–is exiled to seaside Massachusetts to stay with a grandfather he barely knows while his busy jet-setting parents decide what to do with him.
In the three-week interim, he finds a mysterious blue bottle at the ocean’s edge and begins sending messages back and forth over time to an Indian boy caught up in an 1896 British conflict in the tea growing area of Ajeegarb.
While Gil is trying to tying to make sense of these strange messages, he meets Nargis–a local girl his own age–at a trash dump where they discover another mystery–a smelly skeleton hand belonging to a 19th century local spinster, the victim of lost love.
There is also a mysterious ghostly letter carrier and a poetic genie involved in all this. Sometimes the fantastical elements seem a bit too much, but the book is a page turner. Gil and Nargis are determined to solve the mystery and to help their new friend in India escape the horrors of war as well as reunite the star-crossed lovers.
With the threat of being sent to military school looming over him, Gil manages to use the supernatural powers to his advantage, and in doing so a happy ending ensues for all.
This book provides interesting mysteries woven into a historical setting and interlaced with numerous fantasy elements. Boy readers should enjoy this fast-paced tale.