Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Report/Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins
by Richard and Florence Atwater
unabridged audio read by Paul Hecht
juvenile fiction, 1938
finished 2/11/08

I have a vague memory of beginning to read this book to my son many years ago without success. I have a feeling he wasn't interested, and I found it hard to bring enthusiasm to the reading. When I saw that Mr. Popper's Penguins was available as an audio book, I thought I'd give it another try. And I am so glad I did. I simply loved it. Mr. Popper is a house painter, and in the winter months when he cannot paint, he reads and reads and reads about explorers and faraway places. He longs to visit the Poles, both North and South. He writes a letter to an Admiral Drake who is exploring Antarctica, and, lo and behold, he receives a reply; not just a letter, but in the form of a real, live penguin. He names the little fellow Captain Cook, and the Poppers rearrange their entire lives to accommodate his presence. As time passes, the penguin languishes, and a veterinarian doesn't know how to cure him. Mr. Popper writes to an aquarium where he knows there is a penguin in residence, and finds out that she isn't healthy either. Well, you may guess what happens next. The head of the aquarium sends the little girl to Mr. P. and both penguins flourish and multiply, to the tune of ten little ones. The whole cellar is turned into an arctic paradise for the penguins, and after a while they hit the show circuit.

As I listened, I could see why it wasn't such a hit with my young boy. It is quite slow and descriptive, and subtle. It doesn't have a lot of drama or excitement. But for this adult reader, it couldn't have been better. I loved this quiet, close family, and the way they all rally together to take care of one, then two, and then a whole family of penguins. And those penguins! They are so adorable. The narrator, Paul Hecht does a terrific job of making penguin noises, and he really brought them to life. The adventures of the Poppers and the penguins are so much fun to read about, and I found myself imagining the delight of having them in my own cellar, climbing ladders or stairs, and then "tobogganing" down on their bellies.

If you haven't come upon this little gem in your reading travels, you might want to pick it up sometime. It will offer you quiet chuckles, and a few laugh-out-loud moments, and an inner warmth to brighten your spirit. Just lovely.

An Antarctic Emperor Penguin. (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photograph)


  1. I adored this book when I was little, it taught me to love penguins. I never tired of it and wore out the copy in my town library.
    The title alone makes me long to read it again! Thanks for the review.
    (Oh, and I commented about your parish back over there on my blog, #7 in that thread...responding to your comment.)

  2. I think Amy read this in 5th or 6th grade and loved it! I'll have to give it a read. :)

  3. My 13-year-old grandson and my 70-year-old sister had a grand discussion of this book the last time they got together, which was two months ago. It reminded me how much I'd loved this book when I was a little girl. I think it's a book kids discover for themselves and read over and over, if this two plus me are typical.

    It's a delight to find something like this on a blog!

  4. My favorite chapter is when Mr. Popper is talking to the telephone operator. It never ceases to crack my whole class, and I, up.

  5. I don't know if I read this book when I was younger, but for some reason it feels familiar. I will definitely put it on my TBR list!!! Great review! Makes me want to read it right now!

  6. I remember Mr. Popper's Penguins! I love listening to audio books when I take long trips. They keep me awake, alert and entertained for the long, potentially boring, hours. Mr. Popper will have to go on my next trip with me. :)
    Thanks, Nan!!

  7. I'm so tickled to read all your comments. I hope you will write back if you happen to read it (again) sometime. I just loved it.


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