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Shutterstock.com (Background); CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.; DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.
What is Dav Pilkey's Superpower

When Dav Pilkey was a kid, he struggled to read. But he discovered a superpower—and it wasn’t flying through the air. 

By Laine Falk
From the March / April 2021 Issue
Lexiles: 570L
Guided Reading Level: M
DRA Level: 20-24
Vocabulary: challenge, struggle, dyslexia, character, series, publishing, animated
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Think and Read

As you read, think about what Dav’s superpower could be. There is more than one right answer!

Dav Pilkey was in second grade. His teacher stood in front of the room, talking to the class. Dav isn’t sure why, but she said the word underwear.

Underwear!

The class burst out laughing.

“Underwear is NOT funny,” she said.

That made the class laugh even harder!

As Dav was cracking up, he got an idea. He started thinking about the word underwear.

“I remember thinking that it’s an amazingly powerful word that can make everyone laugh. I should do something with that.”

Can you guess what Dav did?

Dav Pilkey struggled to read when he was a kid.

When he was in second grade, his teacher said the word underwear.

The class started laughing.

“Underwear is NOT funny,” she said.

Dad got an idea. He started thinking about the word underwear.

Dav Pilkey struggled to read as a student, but he discovered a superpower - and it wasn’t flying through the air.

When Dav was in second grade, his teacher stood in front of the room, talking to the class. Dav isn’t sure why, but she said the word underwear.

Underwear!

The class burst out laughing.

“Underwear is NOT funny,” she said.

That made the class laugh even harder!

As Dav was cracking up, he got an idea. He started thinking specifcally about the word underwear.

“I remember thinking that it’s an amazingly powerful word that can make everyone laugh. I should do something with that.”

School Struggles

School Struggles

School Struggles


Let’s go back in time a little bit. Dav was just a regular kid in Cleveland, Ohio. He had a lot of friends. But school was a challenge for him. It was hard.

Dav couldn’t read as well as his classmates. When the teacher would call kids to the front of the room to read out loud, Dav would think, Oh no.

He could hear the other kids groan. They knew he would struggle to get through the words, and his reading would take a while. He just hated reading out loud like that.

He also got in trouble a lot. He had a hard time paying attention.

Almost every day, his second-grade teacher would point to the door. “Mr. Pilkey, out!” she’d say.

Dav would have to go sit at a desk in the hall. He would sit there by himself for a few hours. He hated being separated from the rest of the class. It was lonely.

Dav was just a regular kid in Ohio. He had a lot of friends. But school was hard.

Dav couldn’t read as well as the other kids.

He got in trouble a lot. He had a hard time paying attention.

Dav would have to go sit at a desk in the hall. He would sit there by himself. It was lonely.

Let’s go back in time a little bit. Dav was just a regular kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. He had a lot of friends but school was a challenge for him. It was extremely difficult.

Dav couldn’t read as well as his classmates. When the teacher would call kids to the front of the room to read out loud, Dav would think, Oh no.

He could hear the other kids groan because they knew he would struggle to get through the words, and his reading would take a while. He just hated reading out loud like that.

He had a hard time paying attention and he got in trouble a lot.

Almost daily, his second-grade teacher would point to the door. “Mr. Pilkey, out!” she’d say.

Dav would have to go sit at a desk in the hall for a few hours. He felt lonely and he hated being separated from the rest of the class.

Shutterstock.com (Background); Courtesy of Pilkey family (Dav as Child); Jim McMahon/Mapman R (Map); CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.; DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.

Here is Dav when he was in second grade. He is from Cleveland, Ohio.

Drawing at the Desk

Drawing at the Desk

Drawing at the Desk

It turns out that Dav had a hard time reading and paying attention for a reason. He had ADHD and dyslexia (dis-LEX-ee-uh). Those are two conditions that make it hard to focus and learn.

But soon he discovered something. He could draw and write stories at that desk in the hall. He may have had trouble with reading, but he was great at drawing.

He drew and drew. He got a lot of practice. And he got better.

He started making up his own stories. Soon, he started making his own comics.

It turns out that Dav had ADHD and dyslexia (dis-LEX-ee-uh). They make it hard for him to focus and learn.

Dav had trouble with reading, but he was great at drawing.

He started making his own comics.

It turns out that Dav had a hard time reading and paying attention for a reason. He had ADHD and dyslexia - conditions that make it hard to focus and learn.

But soon he discovered something. He could draw and write stories at that desk in the hall. He may have had trouble with reading, but he was great at drawing.

He drew and drew. He practiced and he improved.

He started making up his own stories and soon he was creating his own comics.


First Comics

First Comics

First Comics


Shutterstock.com (Background); Courtesy of Pilkey family (Dav as Child); Jim McMahon/Mapman R (Map); CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.; DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.

Dav made his very first comic book in second grade. It starred a character named Dog Man. Dog Man would get hit by lightning if the town needed a superhero. Suddenly, Dog Man would have superpowers! And he could save everyone.

Dav drew another comic too. He was thinking about the word underwear. It had the power to make people laugh. He drew a man in a pair of underwear.  Dav called him Captain Underpants.

Dav began to show his comic books to his friends. The other kids loved them!

His teacher did not agree. Sometimes, she would take them away and rip them up.

Luckily, Dav’s parents thought the comics were wonderful. They asked him if he would make a series of comic books just for them.

And he did! Dav created many comic books. His parents saved them, and he still has them today.

Dav made his very first comic book in second grade. It starred a character named Dog Man.

Dav drew another comic too. He drew a man in a pair of underwear. He called him Captain Underpants.

Dav began to show his comic books to his friends. They loved them!

His teacher did not. Sometimes she would rip them up.

Dav’s parents thought the comics were wonderful.

Dav made his very first comic book in second grade. It starred a character named Dog Man who would get hit by lightning if the town needed a superhero. Suddenly, Dog Man would have superpowers! He could save everyone.

Dav drew another comic too. He was thinking about the word underwear and remembered how it had the power to make people laugh. He drew a man in a pair of underwear and called him Captain Underpants.

Dav began to show his comic books to his friends. The other kids loved them!

His teacher did not agree. Sometimes, she would take them away and destroy them by ripping them up.

Luckily, Dav’s parents thought the comics were wonderful. They asked him to create a series of comic books just for them.

And he did! Dav created many comic books. His parents saved them, and he still has them today.


Scholastic, Inc.

Dav loves to share his life story with kids.  

Dav the Author

Dav the Author

Dav the Author

Dav struggled with school for many years. People didn’t know very much about ADHD and dyslexia back then. Now we know that people learn in different ways.

When Dav became an adult, he started publishing children’s books. He would go to schools and talk to kids about being a writer. He told them how he used to sit in the school hallway.

Dav noticed something. Whenever he mentioned his old comic, Captain Underpants, everyone would crack up!

“Are you ever going to make a book about Captain Underpants?” the kids would ask.

“Hmm, maybe I should do that,” he thought.

And he did. So far, Dav has written and illustrated 12 Captain Underpants books and 9 Dog Man books! He has created many other books too, and is working on his newest graphic novel series, Cat Kid Comic Club.

Dav says, “You don’t have to fly to have superpowers. Superpowers can be your creativity or your imagination.”

Dav struggled with school for many years.

When Dav became an adult, he started writing children’s books. He would go to schools. He would talk about being a writer.

Whenever he mentioned his old comic, Captain Underpants, everyone would crack up!

“Are you ever going to make a book about Captain Underpants?” the kids would ask.

One day he did. Dav has written 12 Captain Underpants books and 9 Dog Man books!

Dav says, “You don’t have to fly to have superpowers. Superpowers can be your imagination.”

Dav struggled with school for many years because people didn’t know very much about ADHD and dyslexia back then. Now we know that people learn in different ways.

When Dav became an adult, he started publishing children’s books. He would go to schools and talk to kids about being a writer. He told them stories of how he used to sit in the school hallway creating comics.

Dav noticed something. Whenever he mentioned his old comic, Captain Underpants, everyone would crack up!

“Are you ever going to make a book about Captain Underpants?” the kids would ask.

“Hmm, maybe I should do that,” he thought.

And he did. So far, Dav has written and illustrated 12 Captain Underpants books and 9 Dog Man books! He has created many other books too, and is working on his newest graphic novel series, Cat Kid Comic Club.

Dav says, “You don’t have to fly to have superpowers. Superpowers can be your creativity or your imagination.”

What Will You Find in Dav’s Books?

What Will You Find in Dav’s Books?

What Will You Find in Dav’s Books?

Flip-O-Rama

Flip-O-Rama

Flip-O-Rama

Shutterstock.com (Background); DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.; CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.

A lot of Dav’s books have action scenes. You flip through them. This makes the drawings move like an animated cartoon.

A lot of Dav’s books have action scenes. You flip through them. This makes the drawings move like an animated cartoon.

A lot of Dav’s books have action scenes. You flip through them. This makes the drawings move like an animated cartoon.

Kid Drawings

Kid Drawings

Kid Drawings

Shutterstock.com (Background); DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.; CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.

Dav has two kid characters named George Beard and Harold Hutchins. In his books, they draw Captain Underpants and Dog Man. So a lot of the artwork in those books has to look like it was done by kids.

Dav has two kid characters named George Beard and Harold Hutchins. In his books, they draw Captain Underpants and Dog Man. So a lot of the artwork in those books has to look like it was done by kids.

Dav has two kid characters named George Beard and Harold Hutchins. In his books, they draw Captain Underpants and Dog Man. So a lot of the artwork in those books has to look like it was done by kids.

Lots of Laughs

Lots of Laughs

Lots of Laughs

Shutterstock.com (Background); DOG MAN art © Dav Pilkey.; CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS art © Dav Pilkey.

Some of Dav’s books are serious, but most of them are funny. Dav thinks it’s good for books to be fun and to make you laugh.

Some of Dav’s books are serious, but most of them are funny. Dav thinks it’s good for books to be fun and to make you laugh.

Some of Dav’s books are serious, but most of them are funny. Dav thinks it’s good for books to be fun and to make you laugh.

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About the Article

English Language Arts Focus

Author studies 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

The big question of this issue of Storyworks 2 is: What makes something funny
  • Reading and discussing “What Is Dav Pilkey’s Superpower?” along with the other funny/humor-themed texts in the magazine (the paired texts, “What’s in a Joke?/How to Tell a Joke,” the mini graphic novel, “A Laugh From Old Mrs. Wilson,” and the poem, “My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes”) should give kids insight into what makes certain things funny.
  • Through the above genres, students will discuss: Why do we like to laugh? Why do different people find different things funny? How do jokes work? What makes something funny?

1. BEFORE READING

Show “The Big Question” Video (10 minutes)

Watch “The Big Question: What Makes Something Funny?”

(This video also goes with other stories in this month’s Storyworks 2.)

  • Before your students watch, ask them to think about: “What makes something funny?”
  • Watch the video.
  • After watching, ask the question again. Write students’ ideas on chart paper.

Read About Dav Pilkey (10 minutes) 

  • Read our Words & Pictures article, “Five Facts About Dav Pilkey,” (pages 4-5) to provide students with some background knowledge about this superstar author/illustrator.

Preview Vocabulary (3-15 minutes)

  • Play the online vocabulary slideshow. This article’s featured words are challenge, struggle, dyslexia, character, series, publishing, and animated.

Preview the First Pages and Set a Purpose for Reading (5-10 minutes)

  • Now tell students they are going to read a nonfiction article. Tell them it connects to the video they watched about what makes something funny. 
  • Open your magazines to, “What Is Dav Pilkey’s Superpower?” Preview the text features on the opening pages.
  • Ask, “Do you see any characters you recognize from books you’ve read?” (Answers will vary.)
  • Next, read the Think and Read prompt on page 6: “As you read, think what Dav’s superpower could be. There is more than one right answer!” Encourage children to think about this prompt as they read.

2. READ THE ISSUE

Read Together (15-30 minutes)

  • You can read this article together as a class or in small groups.
  • Check comprehension as you read the issue together with the Pause and Think questions.
  • Build reading stamina: Play our Video Read-Aloud feature. Kids can hear the issue read aloud and see the imagery come to life. This is especially helpful for giving lower-level readers the same access to the story as their classmates.

3. AFTER READING: FOCUS ON ELA SKILLS

Assessment: Quiz (10 minutes)

ELA Focus: Vocabulary (20 minutes) 

  • Use the Word Work printable to deepen students’ understanding of the article’s vocabulary words. 

Parts of Speech: A Silly Day at School (15 minutes)

  • The Silly Day at School printable is a Mad Libs-style fill-in-the-blank activity. Kids can practice being funny and learn parts of speech! 

Enrich the Learning: Paired Text Opportunities (time amount varies)

Making text-to-text connections builds knowledge and comprehension. We layer Storyworks 2 with many ways for your students to make connections.

Two Different Texts Use this printable to help your students compare and contrast this article with the Word & Pictures article, “Five Facts About Dav Pilkey.” (pages 4-5).

Additional Pairable TextsA Laugh from Old Mrs. Wilson (pages 13-17), “What’s in a Joke?/ How to Tell a Joke (pages 18-21), and “My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes” (page 32)

  • These texts also ask questions similar to those posed in the Big Read. What makes something funny? How can different people find different things humorous?
  • Kids can compare the humor in the texts using our “Funny Chart” printable. How are the texts alike and how are they different? 

Draw Dog Man (10 minutes) 

  • With this printable, your students will learn how to draw one of Dav Pilkey’s most beloved characters, Dog Man, step-by-step!