Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
First Published 1938
Source: purchased our copy for my children
In the 1930's in small-town Stillwater, Mr. and Mrs. Popper and their two children are scraping by on the seasonal work Mr. Popper does painting and wallpapering houses. Mr. Popper is a man who dreams of the Antarctic and grand adventures and is content to spend his off season reading about that part of the world and following the explorations of Admiral Drake. He's even written to the Admiral who one evening surprises the family by addressing Mr. Popper on the radio, telling him that a gift is on it's way.
In the 1930's in small town America, penguins were still such a novelty that it's entirely believable that people wouldn't even know what the creatures were. Even today, the penguin exhibit at the zoo is one of the most popular and I've often said I could go to the zoo just to sit and watch them.
Maybe that's why, even though this story is preposterous, it's also so charming. I love that Mr. Popper's dreams come true and that the practical Mrs. Popper succumbs to the birds' charms. The drawings are delightful and there's actually quite a lot to be learned from the book. Perhaps because it was already an older book when I first read it, it feels less dated to me than other childhood favorites I've reread and it's one I look forward to reading to my someday grandchildren.
That movie adaptation, starring Jim Carrey, however...what were they thinking?!