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Book News: 'Captain Underpants' Is 2013's Most Vilified Book

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

/ Scholastic Inc.
Scholastic Inc.

  • In a clear victory for the villainous Dr. Diaper, Captain Underpants -- Dav Pilkey's series about a heartless school principal who when hypnotized becomes a kindly superhero dressed only in a cape and a pair of underpants — topped the American Library Association's annual list of most-challenged books for the second year in a row. A challenge is a "formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness." In a statement, Pilkey said he was surprised "that a series with no sex, no nudity, no drugs, no profanity and no more violence than a Superman cartoon has caused such an uproar." The full list — maybe the only place you'll see Captain Underpants listed together with Toni Morrison's masterpiece The Bluest Eye and E.L. James' erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey -- is here:

  • Sue Townsend was writing another Adrian Mole novel at the time of her death. Townsend's U.K. publisher told The Telegraph: "It was supposed to be out this autumn and we are very sad that we won't be able to show it to the world." The author of the warmly funny Adrian Mole series, which begins with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ and ends with Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, died last week at age 68.

The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Evie Wyld's gorgeous, grisly second novel, All the Birds, Singing, begins with the memorable line: "Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapors rising from her like a steamed pudding." The novel's heroine, Jake, tends sheep on a lonely, dreary British island. But something is killing off her sheep in the night. The book is remarkable not only for the nearly unbearable sense of suspense, but also for the lushness of the animal world: the flies that drink from the corners of Jake's eyes, the sheep with the greasy fur she shears "like peeling a mandarin, when the skin is thick and the pith attached and there is something satisfying about it." (Listen to Wyld's interview with Weekend Edition's Scott Simon.)

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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