The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey (lexile: 720; AR book level: 4.3 ; 117 pp)
Let’s face it: any story in which underwear figures prominently in the plot is funny. The popularity of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series is due in part to his cartoon drawings and the clever antics of main characters George and Harold — but mostly to the fact that they’ve hypnotized their principal into thinking he’s a superhero in a cape and briefs. Before they can stop him, the principal takes off out the window to fight crime with Wedgie Power, taking on bank robbers, robot thieves, and ultimately the villainous Dr Diaper.
And Moms — I know these books are goofy, silly, and a bit dependent on potty jokes. Hmm … sounds like the sense of humor of a lot of 3rd grade boys. I know and have read of many once-reluctant readers who got started on chapter books with Captain Underpants, sometimes reading them over and over until the pages fell out. As a well-into-adulthood-boy, I still think they’re a hoot — and I read Les Misérables last year (all 1260 pages, no pictures), so I’m not a total cretin.
The complete series:
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants
- Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets
- Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space
- Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
- Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman
- Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1
- Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2
- Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People
- Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers
- Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers
Airball: My Life in Briefs, by L. D. Harkrader (lexile: 700; AR book level: 4.4; 198 pp)
Take a small town in Kansas where basketball is king. Add a 7th grade boys team that hasn’t won a game in three years. Throw in a coach who just might be crazy (or crafty), and who has given his team “Stealth Uniforms” – which are suspiciously INVISIBLE, leaving them practicing in their underwear. That’s where 7th grader Kirby Nickel finds himself in Airball: My Life in Briefs.
Like everyone in Stuckey, Kansas, Kirby loves basketball. However, he can’t PLAY basketball. This year, though, he HAS to go out for the team. If they can just come up with a winning season, they’ll get to meet hometown hero and NBA star Brett McGrew. Kirby is not just McGrew’s biggest fan – he also thinks McGrew might be his father.
This story is great fun, and you’ll find yourself cheering for klutzy Kirby and his team of underdogs. They get so good at practicing in their underwear that, during halftime of their first real game, they decide to play the rest of the game that way — and win! They go on to win every game, and in a satisfying, surprising ending Kirby discovers who his real dad is.
Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen (lexile: 780; AR book level: 4.3; 88 pp)
This short, witty, tale from Newbery winner Gary Paulsen will leave kids (and adults) laughing AND teach them something about economics. When the narrator receives his grandfather’s old riding mower for his 12th birthday, he sets out to mow a few lawns and earn enough to buy a new inner tube for his bike. Things get interesting when he mows the lawn of Arnold Howell, an ex-hippie, cash-strapped stockbroker who offers a stock market account and business advice in lieu of payment. As the business grows, Lawn Boy ends up with a dozen migrant laborers in his employ, and wildly successful investments that include sponsorship of a prizefighter named Joey Pow. The mob tries to get a cut of the lawn-mowing profits, but Joey shows up to visit his sponsor just in time to “take care” of the threat with a little muscle. By the end of the summer Lawn Boy is worth half a million dollars — and trying to figure out how to tell his parents!
The sequel, Lawn Boy Returns, just came out in 2010, and continues the story. The Lawn Boy business has gotten so big that Arnold’s hired a publicist, an accountant and a lawyer. A shady character named Zed has shown up, claiming to be Joey Pow’s long-lost cousin, and wanting a share of the profits. The IRS is threatening an audit — and Lawn Boy just wants to hang out with friends, mow a few lawns, and fish. The tale wraps up with a happy ending, engineered by Arnold’s financial genius.