“The second graphic novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins. The Creators of Captain Underpants.”
The idea here is that the same kids who created Captain Underpants have also created this comic. Both of which were of course made by an adult, but that’s part of the gimmick of the book. Ook and Gluk start out in 500,001 B.C. and have an adventure that involves time travel to 2222, pollution, a family that is evil throughout time, and luckily a near by school that teaches kung fu to our heroes.
Then earlier this week the book got pulled, Scholastic wants it gone from libraries and schools, and it is now selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. So, let’s read this book and find out what’s going on.
The comic itself is fun. All of the things mentioned above plus dinosaurs, falling in love, time machines, and flip book pages. The book is nearly 200 pages but for the average adult this would take an hour max. Even with stopping to check out the art. It’s really good art too. That deceptively simple style. Sure, maybe a kid made this. But the panel structure, the shading, the visual humor. Dav Pilkey, the real creator, must have some background in cartooning to pull this off.
My only complaint is the language. Because this is “created” by two kids, one 9 and one 10, the book is full of misspellings. Ones that would make sense for that age. Also, I make them all the time as an adult. I understand the idea, but a little goes a long way. Also these books have sold in the millions and as a parent I feel there’s a certain level of responsibility to teach children how to properly spell words. A couple would have been fine. Maybe the first couple pages and then the rest are “magically” fixed for the rest of the novel. The bit gets old over the entire book.
So why is this book pulled? Well, Ook and Gluk learn kung fu from Mr Wong, and years later use their training to defeat the bad guys. Mr Wong teaches them Chinese philosophy. His eyes are lines and not dots like other characters. He is also captured towards the end of the book and has to be rescued by Ook and Gluk using the lessons that Mr Wong taught them but is apparently incapable of using himself.
Now, Pilkey says he never meant anything offensive and I believe him. This is Mr Miyagi from Karate Kid. This is the wise man teaching a kid who needs help a way to find focus in life. If Ook and Gluk learned kung fu from a white or Black teacher would that then be cultural appropriation?
I ask all of this not being Asian myself. Just last week I learned that “chop chop” has potentially racist origins and I’m going to try to not use the term when other people in this family aren’t-ready-to-leave! That said, anytime I did use the term it was not from hate. It was just a term that I never thought of before. I have to imagine Pilkey thought who can teach these cave kids? A martial arts master! That makes sense. Mr Wong is shown as a loving stern teacher and a great part of the story.
There are differences between this book and the Dr Seuss books. This one was a current best seller and still popular. The six pulled Seuss books were the bottom selling ones and in what I have read so far, I can see an argument for the questionable pictures. I also think that within a year, all of those Seuss books will be re-released in a more adult format with essays discussing the representation, what it meant at the time, and how Dr Seuss tried to do better throughout his life. This seems more like fear over an online petition (with 600 signatures!). This is a publisher reacting like an assistant manager for a national chain store located in a small town. It’s easier to give the bitching complaining customer what they want so they go away and shut up instead of risking them calling corporate. Scholastic wanted this to just go away, and by pulling the book in this fashion have called even more attention to it. Streisand effect again.