When best-selling author Dav Pilkey was in second grade, his teacher used the word underwear in class one day.
His class erupted in laughter.
The world of children's books was never the same. Pilkey's series “The adventures of Captain Underpants” launched in 1997.
“I’ve been drawing him ever since,” Pilkey said.
The book series, which has 80 million in print, has inspired a feature film and a Netflix series that just finished its first season.
“I wasn’t sure how people would respond to it, but I feel very fortunate the readers seemed to enjoy it,” Pilkey said.
Pikley will discuss his own childhood and other topics during his “Howl with Laughter” tour at a sold-out event at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
As part of his presentation, Pilkey with do some drawings, take questions from the audience, give prizes to those answering questions correctly, and sign books.
Pilkey calls it a way to connect to his readers.
“As a book writer, it’s one of my favorite parts of my job,” Pilkey said. “It's kind of a way for the community to get together to celebrate reading and literacy.”
Much of his writing, Pilkey said, draws from his childhood.
When Pilkey was young he faced a number of challenges including dyslexia and ADHD. Because of those issues, he “didn’t fit well in the classroom” and his teacher disciplined him by banishing him to the hallway.
“I used to write comic books mostly as a way to stay connected with my classmates who are all in the classroom, but the comic books were a way to connect with my friends,” recalled Pilkey. “I still feel like in a way I’m still doing that... that the books I write is a way to keep connected to the world.”
Pilkey, who would grow up to sell millions of children’s’ books with his “Captain Underpants” and “Dogman” series, among others, was a “very discouraged little boy who didn’t like to read much,” until his mother started taking him to the library when he was in the second grade.
“She got me a library card and let me pick out whatever books I wanted with no judgment,” Pilkey said. “I didn't have to read in my own age category. I could read the same things over and over again and I could read comics and magazines, it didn't matter.”
The best-selling author hopes his experiences resonate with today's youth.
“I never knew anybody else who had dyslexia and I never knew anyone who had my hyperactivity problems,” Pilkey said. “I always thought it would have been so comforting to know that someone had grown up with those problems and turned out okay. Hopefully kids are getting some encouragement from my past and overcoming challenges.”
Pilkey’s first book, “World War Won,” won a national competition for teens in 1987. He followed that up with picture books for children before the “Dragon” series was published in 1990. The “Dumb Bunnies” series followed in 1994 and then came “Big Dog & Little Dog” in 1997.
Another popular series by Pilkey is “Dog Man,” which is a spin-off of “Captain Underpants.” The latest in the series, “Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas,” was published in August. “Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild,” will be released on Christmas Eve.