Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 4 stars
Here's a funny book about Mr. Popper, a simple guy living a humdrum existence in the 1930s who is obsessed with Arctic expeditions. He is active with his obsession--he writes letters to the leaders of expeditions offering them insights and asking them questions. In return for one of those letters, to sate his curiosity, one explorer-Admiral sends him a penguin.
Fun, crazy conversation I had with my daughter: What would you DO if I got a penguin delivered to our doorstep?!
Mr. Popper keeps it as a pet with some funny little happenings with that first penguin, and his whole family is even more blown away by the arrival of a second penguin. And with a boy penguin and a girl penguin, you better believe that soon they have baby penguins, too!
Lorelei loved the image of the penguins waddling around a neighborhood, living in the basement, having one's basement transformed into a penguin playground. The whole image is very fun and imaginative to her--a little less so for me, because I can't imagine cleaning up after that many penguins.
The ending has two parts I have to point out. One I like, one...makes me shake my head a little.
First, Mr. Popper receives an invitation from an important director in Hollywood asking him to use his penguins in the movies. Mr. Popper declines--he doesn't want his penguins living such a flashy lifestyle, so he declines. I like how he chooses a "regular" lifestyle for his penguins (okay, that right there is a little funny) rather than the paparazzi-filled lifestyle of Hollywood.
Second, Mr. Popper is invited to go on an Arctic expedition just as he always dreams of going on. He is ecstatic and accepts the invitation. As he heads out the door, he shouts out to his wife, "Do you mind if I'll be back in a year or two?!" And she, of course as the housewife of the 1930s who doesn't disagree with much: "No problem! It'll be easier to keep the house clean without you!"
That is eye-rolling material right there. But I'll try and suspend my feminist disbelief and annoyance and appreciate how adventurous the ending is--he finally gets to go on one after studying them from his armchair every night. And Lorelei and I talked about the differences between then and now.
This is a good read aloud book for kids--Lorelei's Kindergarten teacher read the book aloud to the whole class, and we read it together a few months after that. We still haven't seen the movie, though!