Much to my surprise (although I should know by know to expect the unexpected from Dav Pilkey), Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers (Scholastic, August 28, 2012) is a time travel book!
When last we saw our heroes, George and Harold, they were on their way to jail...but then Tippy Tinkletrousers, in his gigantic pair of robotic, death-dealing pants (or at least, mega freeze powered pants) appeared out of nowhere...and the cops got iced.
But. Tippy T. wasn't supposed to have shown up just then. He wasn't supposed to have traveled backwards through time...and he wasn't supposed to have set in motion a chain of events that led to the destruction of the whole planet (!!!). Instead, Harold and George were supposed to end up in juvenile detention, and their principal, Mr. Krupp, was supposed to end up in jail. And the train of events was then going to lead to Tippy T. creating his Robo-Pants, facing off with Captain Underpants, and then fleeing back into the past....
But. Before we pick up that story, we are taken back by the author to an even earlier time--Kindergarten. And in a lovely long backstory that occupies most of the book, we get to see George and Harold becoming friends, and taking down the nasty bullies of the school with their super deluxe inventiveness and penchant for pranksterish schemes (I liked this bit. It was a good story, and there were no poop jokes).
But. The Happy Ending is disrupted by Tippy T. traveling back in time, arriving just at the point where George and Harold were about to savor their victory....bang goes the victory...but worse than that, because of this time travelling, Captain Underpants is never brought to super heroic life! All those bad guys in the earlier books get to wreck their evil havoc unopposed! The World Ends!
Can this really truly be it?
No. There's another book on its way.
This is perhaps my favorite of the Capt. Underpants books, which might not be saying a lot, cause goodness knows I am not the target audience. I did sincerely enjoy this one, though-I'm always a sucker for a good bit of backstory to characters I've already gotten a chance to know. And it wasn't as reliant on bathroom humor as other books I could name in the series.
And my boys devoured it repeatedly, as children all across our country doubtless will as well....unless, of course, a time travelling accident changes the writerly course of Dav Pilkey's past, and he decides that what he really wants to do instead of writing this one is to finish Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot series....
Edited to add: It occurs to me that George (whose hair, by the way, was an exuberant afro when he was young; we get to see him have his first really short haircut, courtesy of Harold), puts this one on my list of diverse fantasy and sci fi. Good.