What You Need to Know:|
• Mr. Popper's Penguins is a classic story that will have your reader laughing and their imagination buzzing.
• Read the book first! A movie version, very loosely based on the book was released on June 17, 2011.
• The book is often used in lesson plans for grades 2 through 4, and there are many study guides available online.
• It was named a Newbery Honor book in 1939.
• Details about penguins and the Arctic regions are shared throughout the book.
• When the penguin briefly gets sick, the Poppers fear he might die. There are also a few references to spanking.
There are some books that stand out from the crowd. They are worthy of being purchased versus borrowed and for that matter, they are worthy of being read again and again. Mr. Popper's Penguins is one of those books. After more than 70 years in print, the story is still funny and unique. A perfect choice to read before bed or share as a family, Mr. Popper's Penguins is the type of book that can inspire a love of reading and spark the imagination. Haven't we all wished for something completely unattainable? Readers will share Mr. Popper's joy as his dreams come true. For the rest of us, as it says on page 10, "I would much rather go there than read about it. But reading is the next best thing."
There is so much about this book that makes it memorable. The family dynamics are amusing, the characters are charming, and the emotions feel genuine. There is also plenty of action and much of it is slapstick funny, without resorting to "gross out" humor. The scenes are so vivid and alive, I wonder why it took so long to consider making this story into a movie. The language and the concepts reflect the era in which the book was written but do not make the story any less enjoyable today. The detailed, black-and-white illustrations add to the experience, capturing the action and emotion perfectly.
Mr. Popper, a house painter, is an absent-minded dreamer whose somewhat dull life is suddenly turned around by the arrival of an unexpected package. Having previously spent all of his free time studying the Arctic regions, Mr. Popper is surprised to find a real-life inhabitant of this area on his doorstep. Yes, I'm talking about a cute and often outrageously funny penguin named Captain Cook. Mr. Popper welcomes the penguin into his home, but, sadly, Captain Cook soon becomes ill. When Mr. Popper writes to an aquarium for help, he unwittingly finds himself with another penguin named Greta. Before long, there's a whole penguin family in the Popper home and the fun really begins.
The Poppers turn their lives upside down in order to accommodate their new pets. Their icebox (fridge) becomes a temporary home for Captain Cook, the living room turns into a snow park, and their basement is eventually transformed into an arctic wonderland. The penguins seem to take on many human traits, like loneliness, guilt, and pride. They're also excellent performers so when money gets tight, the Poppers take their show on the road to earn extra cash. There are wild scenes where the penguins create all kinds of havoc and confusion. The Poppers eventually confront the ethical dilemma of keeping the penguins on the road, and, as always, the interests of the birds come before the needs of the humans.
Richard & Florence Atwater
1938, 160 pages
Animals, Award Winners, Classic, Ethics, Excellent Read Aloud, Family Life, Good Book Club Selection, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• What parts of the story indicate that it was written more than 70 years ago?
• How was life different then?
• In what ways is the Popper family similar to or different from your own family?
• Why was Mr. Popper so absent-minded? What was he dreaming of?
• What places do you dream of visiting someday?
• Is it right to force animals to perform in order to make money for yourself?
• Would you like to have a family of penguins living in your house?
• How do you feel about the decision that Mr. Popper makes at the end of the book?
• Why did Mrs. Popper worry more about their expenses than Mr. Popper?
• Can you imagine something coming into your life and changing it as much as the penguins changed Mr. Popper's life?
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