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Harold goes gay


Shippers’ delight, by an enamored fan

Not this Harold, or this Harold, or even this other Harold, but THIS Harold is gay. Who knew? In their latest adventure, Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot, Harold and George travel twenty years into the future to meet their grown selves–George has a nice wife and two children, while Harold has a nice husband along with two kids. At least, I think this is how it goes; there are three sets of Harold and George in this entry and I would be at a loss to tell you which one was which at any given moment. (I have never been able to follow a Captain Underpants book successfully from start to finish.)

Good for him. I don’t know if this means Harold is gay now (the picture on the left is fan art, not from Dav Pilkey’s hand) or if he just goes gay later, but I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Jacqueline Woodson years ago about what we called “pre-gay” characters, that is, fictional children one could imagine growing into gay or lesbian adults (pretty much everybody in Harriet the Spy, for example, and Jackie cited the girls in her own House You Pass On the Way). As a young gay reader I made these kinds of extrapolations all the time.

I’m glad, too, that Pilkey made Harold’s gayness canonical, as fans would say. It’s in

The quotidian reality by Dav Piley

The quotidian reality, by Dav Pilkey

the book, not some kind of ex post facto declaration like J.K. Rowling telling us later that Dumbledore was gay (Lisa Graff and I discussed this in a Talks With Roger earlier this month, and it came up again in my TWR with Jonathan Stroud, out next week). But I wonder what this revelation will do to Captain Underpants’ fortunes among young readers. Adults who are horrified by the series–and they are many–will have something else to stoke their rage (who cares?); it remains to be seen if young readers will cheer, shrug it off, or taint Captain Underpants forever as “those faggot books.” (Shut up. Kids can be cruel, something this series knows very well.) But congratulations, Harold. Here’s your toaster.



Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. On the subject of which children’s book characters we can imagine growing into gay or lesbian adults, I reread The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright recently, and I kept picturing Miranda “Randy” Melendy as Tig Notaro. So I guess I do speculate, subconsciously or not, sometimes. But I never thought about Harriet as a gay icon until so many of my gay friends mentioned it. And while we’re on the subject, Deborah Brodie used to affectionately say that she pictured Eric, the best friend and sidekick in the Cam Jansen mysteries by David A. Adler, as gay.

  2. I like how Dav slipped that little gay bit in there. Harold is my favorite character, so this surprised me at first. But, as I looked deeper, it was kind of interesting to hear his back story.

  3. Wait, but if harold’s gay then how does he have twins?

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