Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater
Illustrator:  Robert Lawson 
For ages 8 to 11
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 1992   ISBN: 978-0316058438

Mr. Popper is a house painter who spends his spare time finding out everything that he can about the world's polar regions. In particular, he is interested in penguins, which he thinks are very "funny." In fact Mr. Popper has even gone so far as to write a letter to Admiral Drake, a famous polar explorer.

Soon after hearing Admiral Drake on the radio, Mr. Popper gets a package. Inside the mysterious box (which has holes cut into it) Mr. Popper finds an honest-to-goodness Antarctic penguin. The droll little bird is a gift for Mr. Popper from none other than Admiral Drake himself.

It is not easy to make the penguin - who is called Captain cook - comfortable in a small house in an American town. At first Mr. Popper lets Captain Cook sleep in the refrigerator, but later he moves the animal into the basement where a special cooling unit is set up. Mr. Popper does not have Captain Cook long before the penguin gets very ill. Desperate to try to save his pet, Mr. Popper writes to the curator of an aquarium, asking for advice. In response the curator sends Mr. Popper an aquarium penguin who is also sick. The keeper thinks that there is a chance that both the penguins are lonely and that is why they are ailing.

It soon is clear that the curator was quite right. After Greta the aquarium penguin arrives on the scene, Captain Cook perks right up, and not long after he and Greta have ten chicks to take care of. Though Mr. Popper loves his penguins, he and his long suffering wife cannot help worrying about their finances. Penguins are expensive animals to keep and the Poppers were not really well off to begin with.

This delightfully amusing story was first published in 1938, and though some aspects of the tale are a little dated, it still has a universal appeal. Sweet and loveable Mr. Popper is hard to resist, and any child who has dreamed of having an exotic pet will be able to identify with him.

This title was one of the Newbery Honor books in 1939.