Thursday, February 14, 2008

The best tote bag ever

I have a tote bag that stops people in their tracks.

Whenever I carry this bag, I get comments. They come from kids, adults, teachers, parents, children's librarians, fellow grad students, professors and random people on the street.

Just what exactly is on this magical bag that is such a conversation starter? Something extremely classy and sophisticated, right?

Um, nope.

It's a Captain Underpants tote bag.

It has a big picture of this guy:

and proclaims in large letters that it's "time for new underpants!"

I got it almost two years ago at BookExpo America (a HUGE trade show for the book selling and publishing industries). As I walked into the exhibit hall, the first publisher I ran into (literally) was Scholastic, and they were handing out Captain Underpants bags to everyone who walked by. I took one, and it later proved instrumental in helping me lug tons of books around the convention center.

Even though I picked up lots of bags that day and at other conferences, the Captain Underpants bag is the one I use the most frequently. It is waterproof (a big plus) and it's just the right size to carry between 15 to 30 books (not that I've tested this limit, or anything =). And, as mentioned above, the comments I get about it are really extraordinary. I had no idea how many people KNEW Captain Underpants.

For example, here's what happened yesterday at the library within the space of about a minute. A man (probably in his late teens or early twenties) was standing next to me in the checkout line. He looked at my bag and said "I loved those books when I was a kid!" He then told me all about them and which ones he liked the best. As was checking my books out, a boy (who I'd estimate to be about 6) starting yelling "Captain Underpants! Captain Underpants! Captain Underpants!" over and over and over. As I walked out of the library, I could still hear him.

So, although I get occasional weird looks from adults (and my husband)... I love to hear the comments from fans and readers. And, as the bag says (in addition to the comment about needing new underpants): "Hooray for Captain Underpants!"

If you're looking for something funny, be sure to check out Dav Pilkey's website (he's the author of the Captain Underpants series and many others.) I like the warning on the front page of the site, and this page makes me laugh (particularly if you click on the box on the right.)

This year, at the American Library Association Annual Conference, I got another highly coveted bag. Also from Scholastic, it was a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows bag. How cool is that? See Alison Morris' blog ShelfTalker for great pictures of the bag (she even made a skirt out of it!)

This bag was harder to get. I saw people everywhere around the convention center carrying it, but every time I passed the Scholastic booth, they were all out. I finally arrived one day as soon as the exhibit hall opened, and got one of the coveted bags. This bag is lovely, but it's tall and narrow and doesn't work so well for books. Although, my theory is that if you place the bag Voldemort side up, people are unlikely to steal the contents of your bag. The picture on the bag (which is of the front cover of the American edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) scares you away. Or at least it should. Voldemort as theft prevention.

Do you have a tote bag or book bag that you're particularly fond of?


  1. You are a brave girl to carry around a bag that says "time for new underpants." I do pine for the HP bag though. Wonder what will be the big thing at next Book Expo?

  2. Yes, it's a bit odd to carry around. My husband is relieved the bag is finally falling apart. We'll see what next year's cool plastic bag from Scholastic is.

  3. I have tote envy. My nephew would think I was the coolest aunt ever.


  4. I'm pining for a "Will work for books" bag from Unshelved.

    And I (gasp) GAVE AWAY my HP bag. But I don't use bags that don't have thousands of pockets. And Gretchen loves the bag and uses it all the time.

    I think my Captain Underpants bag is downstairs somewhere... shall I sell it to the highest bidder.

    Captain Underpants is another on my list of Junie B. Jones annoying books. I understand that the 'comic books' are written by the kids, but children don't get that it is 'funny' to have misspellings and bad grammar.

    I do read CU (unlike JBJ) to Grace because the misspellings are limited to the 'comic books' and the situations are wildly unrealistic (unlike JBJ). But we do have long conversations about how the 'heroes' are not kind and tend to ruin things for everyone else. (I know, I'm a buzz kill)

    I think it is amazing and wonderful that JBJ and CU have inspired children to read, but wouldn't the stories be just as cute and funny without the bad grammar and misspellings? I can mitigate the 'damage' of the portrayal of misbehavior, but bad grammar is insidious.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah "Huck Finn" blah, blah, blah... but kids aren't reading "Huck Finn" at 6.

    Did I go a little far afield from tote bags???

  5. I'm gasping a little to realize that there are adultish people who can now say they loved Captain Underpants WHEN THEY WERE A KID!

  6. Scholastic always seems to give out the coolest stuff at Book Expo.