The Adventures of Captain Underpants is a very nice adaptation of the book of the same name - a popular choice among grade school children.
I can remember learning how to read in school, mainly how bored I was by the early reader titles that were made available. Although not specifically “Dick and Jane,” the stories I remember were so simplistic, uninteresting and genteel that they were on the verge of being condescending, without any humor or action to keep me engaged.
Because of this, I am always on the look out for beginner books that will keep my son interested when he begins to read books longer than sparsely worded picture books.
For this reason, I have been eager to share The Adventure of Captain Underpants with him for quite some time as I bought many of these books used from this series from our local library when he was a baby.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants is a cheeky story about two friends who love to pull pranks at school as well as writing comic books, especially The Adventures of Captain Underpants, about a super hero who actually flies around in his underwear.
Things become complicated for the boys when they are caught pulling pranks at their school by their principal, who blackmails them until they are able to hypnotize their principal, yet things take a turn for the worse as the principal takes on the persona of Captain Underpants.
There is a lot that I appreciate about the digitization of this book, as here the story is told in full color instead of the black and white used in my copy of the paperback edition. Even with the color added to these illustrations, the images and text remain the same. Yet very good narration is included which I enjoy a great deal.
The words are not highlighted when read which I find acceptable as most children ready for this story should be able to read along with the text without highlighting assistance.
What I especially like about the narration provided is that different voices are used when dialogue is spoken, breaking up the page a bit to keep kids interested, as well as the slight but effective use of ambient sounds found among these pages. The narration can also be turned off if parents would like to read this book to their children or children to themselves.
Comic Pages are also included that can be enlarged for easier reading, yet are included without narration - good to know if parents want their non-readers to enjoy this book by themselves as they will need help deciphering these panels.
I am grateful that this app does not contain any hotspots to interact with that would become distracting, but there are fun moments where the details from each page move across the screen as the pages are turned for a very nice effect.
I am also happy that this app does save the page one was reading last as well as allowing one to search by chapter to find the menu of pages that one would will then use to find a specific page as a reference.
I also really love how the flip-o-rama pages are included, maintaining the low-tech look from the publisher's copy originally allowing children to flip back and forth between pages to make a cute but crude animated flip book.
My only note is about the included mini-games found both within the story and the ability to select these games from the main page of this app as they are simple and mainly arcade-styled shooting where one tips the iPad to move one’s character while shooting at targets - much like Space Invaders.
It would have been nice if these games were a little less sophomoric - an almost hypocritical request as a fan of The Adventures of Captain Underpants, but I would have appreciated games based more on logic or memory that will in some way serve children. As is, my only hesitation is that my son, if given the iPad to read this book by himself with the aid of narration, may spend his time playing these games intently - not a great use of screen time.
Luckily, there is an avatar maker and a variation on a sound board that allows children to mix different sounds found in this book - both exercises that allow children to be a little creative. Yet it unclear how the advanced functions of the sounds section work as well as the locked content - presumably for this game but I am not really sure.
As a child, I remember being able to borrow albums of books being read out loud that were not abridged in any way such as Alice in Wonderland, and this was the catalyst for me to read books of length on my own.
I enjoy being able to use this app to bridge the gap from my son listening to shorter storybooks on the iPad to a longer chapter book that we can both listen to and enjoy. I hope this app will pique his interest in reading the other books from this series as well.
Although The Adventures of Captain Underpants is not great literature, I don’t think it has to be as long as the book is fun and encourages an interest in reading.
I do think some children could feel overwhelmed by the length of the paperback, while a short read for adults and first chapter book can seem overwhelming to reluctant readers - not an issue with an application.
Some adults may not be fond of the potty and even poop humor found throughout this story making this an application that is not suitable for all families. I do appreciate this story not only for its silly humor but for its dramatic structure of including a cohesive beginning, middle and end, as well as the friendship between these boys, one caucasian and one non-caucasian and their love of writing comic books - a hobby I would be proud for my son to share.
For these reasons I am glad that The Adventures of Captain Underpants has been adapted into an app for iPad. I hope more popular chapter books will be developed as well, both by Scholastic as well as other publishers.