What’s with the Underwear in Picture Books?

BookendsLynn: So what’s with the underwear in picture books recently? Last year saw the publication of Veggies with Wedgies (2014), by Todd H. Doodler, and this year brings even more.

Duh—why am I even ASKING that question? Underwear makes kids giggle, that’s why. The good news is that we have not one, but two, really fun picture books featuring, you guessed it, underwear!

Clearly, wearing underwear makes
you happy and cool as a cucumber!

First up is Vegetables in Underwear (2015) by Jared Chapman. Don’t skip the endpapers on this absurdly fun picture book because they set the stage with a variety of fully dressed veggies. A vegetablesvegetable disrobing occurs on the verso and title pages leading to exuberant vegetables proclaiming:

I Wear Underwear!
You Wear Underwear!
We All Wear Underwear!

Each page reveals 😉 a veggie modeling various types of underwear: big, little, old, new, dirty, clean, serious, and funny. Chapman’s hilarious vegetables stalk through the white pages in bright primary colors that stand out crisply. Everyone wears underwear. Whoa, back up the grocery cart! Everyone but babies that is. Babies wear diapers and the back endpaper shows a weeping baby corn, baby radish, and baby carrot while bigger underwear-clad vegetables beam behind them. Clearly, wearing underwear makes you happy and cool as a cucumber! So even if young readers won’t EAT their veggies, at least they can learn a brief lesson from them!

Our 4-year-old focus group member and I give this charming little book 2 thumbs up!

Polar Bear's UnderwearCindy: “Brief” lesson? Lynn has let underwear go to her head.

Speaking of that, in Polar Bear’s Underwear (2015), by Tupera Tupera, Bunny is found wearing her carrot-designed underwear on her head! Polar Bear can’t find his underwear, so friend Mouse helps him conduct a search. They find lots of colorful pairs, but each one belongs to another animal. The underwear design is seen through a cut out in the page, and the page turn reveals the animal wearing that design. Zebra’s are striped, of course. Pig has treats on hers and says, “Nom, nom, nom.” It turns out Bear was wearing his new white underwear all along and forgot they were on.

The book comes wrapped in a pair of red cardboard underwear and one image I found while searching for the cover art featured the underwear placed over bear’s head instead of in the proper position. (By the way, I don’t recommend searching for this book by title in Google Images. My eyes are bleeding. Trust me).

Lynn is right: underwear makes kids giggle and both of these books are perfect gift books for the child who has graduated from pull-ups to real underwear. My favorite underwear book? No, not Captain Underwear, as popular as he is. Mine is the old standard, Tommy Visits the Doctor (1962). The image of the bunny in his tighty-whities that matched Tommy always made me giggle. There’s a reason I work in a middle school.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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