If You Liked Captain Underpants: A Read-Alike List for Your Kids
A Librarian's List of the Books Kids Check Out Again and Again
Superheroes! Humor! Potty jokes! Flip-O-Ramas! This combination of riotous elements has kept children entertained (while reading, of all things) for a generation.
But what if your little guy or gal has torn through the whole series, from the original Adventures of Captain Underpants all the way to Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People? What then? How do you keep them reading?
Answer: You find them another series they like just as much. Following is a list of the best books with similar reading levels which are always funny, sometimes gross, and checked out time and time again by the hundreds of Captain Underpants fans who come to my library.
All of the fiction books are part of a series. I've included links for just the first ones here, but you can find many other books by the same author in Amazon's database.
NEW! A Beginning Chapter Book for Children with Reading Challenges
Henry Winkler, who played “Fonzie” on the TV Show Happy Days has branched out into writing children’s books. It turns out that Winkler, who has dyslexia, struggled terribly in school, and he’s written books with a main character, “Hank,” who is similarly challenged in reading and math. Nonetheless, the kid keeps an upbeat attitude and finds creative ways to accomplish his goals.
In this Hank Zipzer book written for the younger set, Hank’s second-grade teacher has written a class play that takes place in the library, where all the books come to life. Hank has his heart set on being the exciting “Aqua Fly” book, but he isn’t able to read well enough to get through the lines.
His teacher writes a special part for him—the part of a bookmark. Eventually Hank realizes that she’s written him the part because it has no lines, but he makes the part his own and elicits a few laughs from the other kids.
When the braggart of the class gets stage fright, it’s up to Hank to save the day.
An interesting feature of this series in that the type is set in a new font, dyslexie, which is designed to make it easier for people with dyslexia to distinguish individual letters.
If your child likes the first book, there are several others in the series.
More Funny Books by the Same Author
The closest thing to a favorite book series is another book series by exactly the same author and illustrator. If your child hasn't yet discovered Super Diaper Baby, or Ook and Gluk, they'll be overjoyed to find the same wacky humor and illustrations.
I've just included a link to one of the Super Diaper Baby books, but you can find several other titles in the series.
Adventures of Ook and Gluk
Cavemen, kung fu, time travel: the title pretty much lays it all out there. The twist is that this book is a graphic novel, sort of a comic book in chapter book form. The premise is that the two boys from Captain Underpants have written and illustrated this book.
There are all kinds of things in this book to keep the kiddoes occupied and turning pages.
For Kids Who Like the Pictures
The Captain Underpants books are chock-full of pictures. These books satisfy the visually-oriented kids while encouraging them to read the story. These books are all part of a series, so if your child likes one of them, there are plenty more just like it.
Lunch Lady Graphic Novels
Kids love this graphic novel series about crime-fighting lunch ladies so much that they gave it the Children's Choice award in 2010.
Franny K. Stein Books
As her name would suggest, Franny is a mad scientist, always cooking up strange things and serving up a portion of goofy horror in each book. Author Jim Benton is a cartoonist who includes large illustrations on each page and incorporates lots of visual games into his stories. Though the main character is a girl, these books have a sufficient grossness/mayhem quotient to appeal to the boys as well.
Geronimo Stilton Books
Meet Geronimo Stilton, the not-so-intrepid reporter who gets caught up in adventure after adventure. Oh yes, he happens to be a mouse. Kids love his conversational style and the colorful illustrations and typography that decorate every page. Even though this series has 50+ volumes, I still have to buy 10 or 12 of each title to keep the library kids satisfied.
Bad Kitty Books
This is a book for kids who love pictures and grumpy, self-involved cats. Bad Kitty wants everything his own way, but soon runs into trouble. Each book includes an illustration on each page, with a one- or two-sentence caption that moves the story along. The original Bad Kitty was a children's picture book, but his adventures soon moved to beginning chapter books.
For Kids Who Like the Goofy Humor
These books are all first in a series. If your child likes one of them, look for more by the same author.
My Weird School Books
Our main character, A. J., claims he hates school, but it's hard to believe. He definitely enjoys the adventures he has with the crazy teachers who populate the school. With titles like Miss Daisy is Crazy and Mr. Macky is Wacky, I have trouble keeping enough copies of these books on the shelves because so many kids want to check them out.
George Brown Books
George Brown is trying to behave himself at his new school - no more pranks or clowning around - but pretty soon he runs into trouble. These books have lots of illustrations, lots of bold face type, and lots of mentions of burps, bloody noses, slimy worms, and a superhero called Toiletman.
For Kids Who Like It Just Plain Funny
These books have good-hearted characters and lots of laughs.
The author of the popular Judy Moody series spun off this series for Judy's pesky little brother, nicknamed Stink. He's an exuberant, talkative goodhearted kid who relishes school, his classmates, and all the drama involved in a typical school day. Since his stories usually revolve around his fascination with a topic in school, the author tucks in a few facts--but never so many that she squelches the fun.
Shel Silverstein Books
Fans of Captain Underpants are likely to get a kick out of Silverstein's funny, quirky, and sometimes irreverent poetry as well as the black-and-white drawings that complete the whole experience. The nice thing about poetry is that kids can dip into it a little at a time and not be overwhelmed by the text. With Silverstein, they'll also find their vocabulary growing without them suspecting a thing. If you haven't already introduced your kids to these collections of poems, it's high time they learned about the toilet troll, Stick-a-Tongue-Out-Sid or Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out.
Other books of Silverstein's include Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Every Thing On It, and Runny Babbit.
Roscoe Riley Rules Books
Roscoe Riley is a good kid, but sometimes his enthusiasm leads to unintended consequences. And as he lives and learns, he comes up with some rules that we would all do well to follow. Kids will laugh along as Roscoe discovers that he shouldn't glue his friends to chairs or try to swim in applesauce.
Cool Creepy Food Art
Who can resist Snot Stick Pretzels (pretzels with guacamole and mozzarella cheese) or eyeball spaghetti (add some cheese circles and a stuffed green olive)?
These recipes are easy, surprisingly healthy, and sure to delight a Halloween crowd or just kids who like the idea of drinking Floating Head Cider.
Clear directions and color photos illustrate how to prepare each dish. The book is a little pricey, but well worth picking up if you can find it in the used book market.
For Kids Who Like Factoids with Their Humor
If your kid just isn't taking to another fiction series, it might be worth looking through the nonfiction, where publishers have put in putting out increasingly popular, snappy, entertaining, and yes - informative - titles.
This little paperback companion to the Stink fiction books makes use of engaging and funny illustrations to accompany a collection of factoids that should keep fact freaks reading aloud to their companions for hours. Here you can find information on the loudest burp, which museum is home to the world's oldest ham, and which animal uses slime as a protectant.
You can also find "Stink-o-pedia Volume 2: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z."
This book was the one that started the craze for teaching kids about biology by finding the thing that really intrigued them: gross stuff. From barf to boogers to zits, this book explains them all. It has a little more text than Captain Underpants fans are used to, but with its colorful cartoons and collection of disgusting facts, they won't notice that they're bumping up their reading time.
the concept has become so popular that there is now a traveling museum exhibit with the title "Grossology" that includes hands-on (yes, indeed) learning designed to teach children about anatomy and physiology.
Tips for Reluctant Readers
Many kids who are reluctant to take up reading love the Captain Underpants books. They combine the right combination of (slightly naughty) humor, small chunks of text, and pictures to seem less daunting than other books.
As a librarian, I’ve done quite a bit of reading and research on the topic of reluctant readers and have come up with the following widely-recognized tips that could be helpful if you have a child that just doesn’t seem to pick up a book and read very often.
Tip # 1: Be sure to have your child checked for vision and reading difficulties.
Some children don’t want to read because it is hard for them to see or to process the words that appear on the page. The letters may be blurry to them, or the words may seem to crowd together or even seem to float off the page when the child tries to read them. These processing difficulties often turn many children into reluctant readers. Oftentimes the schoolsor other educational entities will do screening for you, sometimes for free.
If the testing uncovers a difficulty, the school should be able to provide you with various tools and strategies to help your child. Some are as simple as using a colored overlay to change the color of the page which the word is printed on.
Tip #2: Make it easy for your child to read; remember to remove distractions.
I think one reason it was so hard to get my daughter to read when she was young is that there are so many other things to do: watch TV, chat with friends on the computer, play on the Nintendo DS. As a parent, you are going to have to do some rather heavy lifting here and limit the “screen time” your child has each day.
Fitting in with this strategy is to make reading time inviting. Show your child that you want to take time for reading as well. Pick up a magazine or a book thatyou’ve been wanting to read, make some sort of treat (popcorn or lemonade for instance) and invite your child to sit on a comfortable couch with you so that the two of you can spend some time reading together.
Need to make it even more motivating? Offer your child the choice of some unpleasant task (cleaning his/her room, cleaning up the yard) and reading with you. Suddenly, your child won't be so reluctant to read.
Tip # 3: Let your child choose the books he/she wants to read.
Before thinking about reading levels or academic goals, you must first to find something your child really likes. At this point, don’t worry about whether it is too silly, too young, too short, etc. Right now, reading is reading and the main goal is to get him/her to be less reluctant to do it. Take your child to the biggest library close to you and let him/her check out anything that has the printed word, whether it is a magazine, a comic book, a book about superheroes or Legos or making paper airplanes.
What if your child shrugs his/her shoulders and won’t choose anything? Be sure to take a look at the materials I’ve suggested on this site. I’ve spent over 20 years as a children’s librarian, and these are the books that have been favorites with the kids, even the ones who say they don’t much like to read.
Tip #4 Choose materials for your child that have small chunks of text. Big books and pages full of text can be overwhelming.
Imagine that you want to learn a foreign language. Imagine further that you have gotten to the point where you know a few of the basic words and can understand the gist of a few simple sentences. With that much knowledge, would you want to read a 200-page novel, or would you rather want to start with something much shorter, maybe with a bunch of pictures that will help you figure out the meaning of the sentences?
To get your child started, consider introducing him or her to things that break the writing up into smaller pieces: graphic novels, magazines, joke books, comic books and nonfiction.
Tip # 5 Know your child's reading level, but remember that his or her interest level is more important than the reading level.
It is good to know your child’s most comfortable level because it’s good to be aware of book that your child might find frustrating if the vocabulary and sentence complexity are more advanced than he/she is used to.
On the other hand, you will find that many reluctant readers soar, even with more difficult material. The key is whether they are motivated to read the subject matter of whatever they have chosen to read. The absolute key is to find something your child really wants to read.