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

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

An Armstrong family that lost their home to a fire on Wednesday still hasn’t found their cat as of Friday, June 18, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Family cat still missing, days after fire destroys Armstrong home

There were no injuries from Wednesday’s blaze, but two days later there’s still no sign of the white feline

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
Donors who gave $1M to Central Okanagan grads want to send positive message

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

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

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Most Read