Mr. Popper is a humble house painter living in Stillwater who dreams of faraway places like the South Pole. When an explorer responds to his letter by sending him a penguin named Captain Cook, Mr. Popper and his family’s lives change forever. Soon one penguin becomes twelve, and the Poppers must set out on their own adventure to preserve their home.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins was published in 1938. Normally this site won’t review a book this old, but I’m feeling nostalgic, and, quite frankly, this book is wildly under-appreciated.
There were three books that defined my childhood: Robin Hood, Harry Potter, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I read this book more times than I could count; when I picked it up again a couple years ago, despite not having read it for ten years, I remembered every plot point, every detail, even the smallest, and I still loved it.
Now, I should say here that no, I have not seen the movie. I’m not a fan of Jim Carrey and from the previews it was clear the movie was not a faithful adaptation of the book. I have decided not to see it and so will not be able to ask questions about it or how it compares to the book, except to make a general note that the book is almost always better.
Mr. Popper loves penguins. One day, he sends a letter to an Antarctic explorer who thanks him by sending him a penguin in return. Months later, the penguin, Captain Cook, gets a companion from the aquarium, Gretta, and Captain Cook and Gretta lay ten eggs, and ten little penguin chicks are the result.
As the penguins grow, Mrs. Popper finds that they can learn a routine of stunts set to music, and the Popper family goes on performing tour with the penguins. The ending is sweet, and always warmed my heart as a kid.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is written with wit and charm. Mr. Popper is a sweet, bumbling character who always tries to do his best. His escapades, and his attempts at mitigating the problems that come with living with twelve penguins, are hilarious and endearing. It’s the sort of story both a young child and an adult can read and enjoy, one that stays with you and will still be enjoyed years later. If you have a six- or seven-year-old who loves reading or needs to read more, this book is perfect; if you know a teen or adult who wants new reading material, this book is just as good. There’s a reason it’s been in print for seventy-four years, and it’s just a pity more people haven’t read it.
Overall rating: 5/5