Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book Review #12: MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater

by Richard and Florence Atwater
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: November 1992
Sales Rank: 2,448
Age Range: 9 to 12

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

Mr. Popper dreams about leaving his boring life and going on an adventure to the Antarctic. When the legendary Admiral Drake sends him a live penguin in response to his letter, he is thrilled. Very soon, he also receives a female companion for his penguin and they have 10 children. But Mr. Popper has enough trouble supporting his human family, and so he has the idea to take his penguins to the stage. Soon, Mr. Popper is up to his ears in adventure as he tries to manage 12 performing penguins and the trouble they inevitably get into. Mr. Popper's Penguins remains a classic, read and remembered by generations of loyal fans. Now, 70 years after its publication, it will be given a fresh new voice as an audiobook to attract a new generation of listeners.

My Rating: 5/5 -- Super highly recommended!

My Thoughts:

A few months ago, I started to see the audio version of the MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS discussed around the blogosphere. It was getting rave reviews, but I wasn't very interested in an audio version. When I began picking up books for the kids' summer reading, I remembered it and decided to hunt it down. Well, no "hunting" was necessary - at 71 years old, this book is still as popular as it was when published back in 1938! How had I made it all the way through childhood and a looooong adulthood without ever having heard of it?

I decided it would be one of the books that my 8-year-old nephew, "J", and I would read together. He's been pretty deep into the Wimpy Kid books lately, so I wasn't sure how he would take to some of the more old-fashioned elements of this story. But we really like penguins at my house, so I figured that aspect would capture his interest. I needn't have been concerned. He absolutely LOVED this book!

Mr. Popper is somewhat of an absent-minded dreamer, and he often finds himself in the middle of some of the most absurdly ridiculous predicaments -- even before any penguins take up residence at 432 Proudfoot Avenue. Once they begin to move in, though, the chaos is hilarious. One of the most hysterical scenes takes place when Mr. Popper telephones City Hall to find out whether he needs a license for his first penguin, Captain Cook. I won't spoil it for you, but it reads a lot like the old 'Who's on first' routine. My nephew was literally rolling around laughing, unable to catch his breath! I got a kick out of the variant ways characters reacted to seeing a virtual chorus line of penguins walking around town. Some were completely freaked out, which of course was funny, but others took it completely in stride, and that acceptance was laughably ludicrous!

There are some illustrations here and there throughout the book which enhance rather than overpower the story. The interior drawings are the original illustrations by Robert Lawson, and they nicely set the story in the 30's as well as show the sweetness of the penguins. The cover art of this edition, by Michael Emberley, is cute and funny.

This is a story not to be missed. I think anyone would enjoy the silliness, but there's nothing quite like experiencing this sort of inanity with a kid at your elbow and seeing it through their eyes. I hope you all have one handy to share this comical adventure about what can happen when dreams come true.

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1939.

About the Authors (from Barnes & Noble):

Before his death in 1948, Richard Atwater was a newspaper columnist and a professor of Greek. He is best known for writing Mr. Popper's Penguins with his wife, Florence, who finished the novel when he fell ill. Together, they were honored with the 1939 Newbery Honor Award.

Click here to read an excerpt.


WilowRaven said...

I'm on a mission to read as many Newbery books this year as I can - I'm not bumping Mr. Popper's Penguins up to the top!
Thanks for the great review :)

bermudaonion said...

Great review! I read this book as a child and loved it and listened to it as an adult and loved it. It's timeless!

Lit and Life said...

I loved this book growing up. When my oldest was in fifth grade I insisted he read it. When I balked, I decided to read it to him. We had fun doing something we hadn't done together in a while and he really enjoyed the book.