by Richard and Florence Atwater
First published in 1938, this humorous classic has made a comeback with the movie starring Jim Carrey that came out earlier this year. I did not make it to the movie theater for it, but decided to reread the book. It still holds up as a silly, quirky story that could be enjoyed as a read-aloud with the whole family.
Mr. Popper is a house painter, but when he gets home from work in the evening he is obsessed with learning about the antarctic. He listens to reports from the Drake Antarctic Expidition on the radio and even wrote them a letter. In return, strangely enough, Admiral Drake sends Mr. Popper a penguin. How that exotic bird turns from one penguin, who Mr. Popper names “Captain Cook,” into a whole waddle of penguins is worth picking up the book to find out. Characterization is somewhat shallow without much depth to Mr. Popper or his wife and children, but the penguins’ antics carry the story to a satisfying ending that includes a stage number set to music where sliding penguins abound.
I was curious about how the book was written by the husband and wife team and found some interesting short biographies online. Richard Atwater had written “Ork! The Story of Mr. Popper’s Penguins” but then suffered a stroke in 1934 and was unable to write anymore. His wife sent the book off but it was rejected, so she did some rewriting and tried again. Their combined effort earned them a Newbery Honor in 1939 and a spot on many lists of children’s classics to this day.
-Reviewed by Jennifer