Captain Underpants Author Agrees With Scholastic Move to Yank Book

Dav Pilkey and publisher pull children's graphic novel for its 'passive racism' against Asians
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2021 10:30 AM CDT
Captain Underpants Author Agrees With Scholastic Move to Yank Book
In this May 21, 2017, file photo, author Dav Pilkey appears at the premiere of "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Scholastic is acknowledging a "serious mistake" on its part regarding a children's book it has been distributing for more than a decade, and the book's author agrees. The education and media company has yanked The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future, a graphic novel penned by Captain Underpants writer Dav Pilkey, from its website and will cease fulfilling orders for it after complaints about racist stereotypes emerged. The New York Times notes Korean-American dad Billy Kim started a petition after he took the book out from the library and found it "relied upon multiple instances of racist imagery and stereotypical tropes," including Asian characters whose eyes are drawn in as dashes, as well as two protagonists (caveboys who aren't Asian) rescuing a kung fu master—the one who taught them their skills in the first place. "Every child who has read this book has been conditioned to accept this racist imagery as 'okay' or even funny," Kim writes.

In a statement, Scholastic agrees the book, in circulation since 2010, "perpetuates passive racism," adding it's "deeply sorry." Pilkey notes in his own letter that although he originally wrote the book to "showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution," he now sees its harm. "I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone," he notes, adding that he and his wife are donating his advance and royalties from the book to groups advocating for diversity and against hatred and violence toward Asians. This development comes just a few weeks after the estate for Dr. Seuss decided to stop publishing and selling six of that author's books for their portrayal of nonwhite characters, as well as on the heels of the shootings in Atlanta in which eight people were killed, six of them Asian women. (More Scholastic stories.)

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