Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr Popper’s Penguins. Illustrated by Robert Lawson
Published 1992 by Little, Brown and Company, 139p
Imagine how your life would change if twelve penguins came to live in your house. I know for sure your children would have the best days. My daughter adored this book; we had so much fun picturing the chaos in Mr Popper’s house.
Have in mind please that the book was published in 1938 when it wasn’t quite easy to get a penguin and when scientists were still studying these birds. Mr Popper was a modest house painter who lived in Stillwater, a small but pleasant city.
“He was a dreamer. Even when he was busiest smoothing down the paste on the wallpaper, or painting the outside of other people’s houses he would forget what he was doing… he was always dreaming about far-away countries”.
He had a happy life with his wife and his two children but he had never been out of his city. His biggest dream was to see the Poles. He wished he had been a scientist and joined some great expeditions. He was the first to see the Polar movies at the cinema and whenever he had some time he used it to read books about explorers and search the expedition spots on his little globe.
Oh, how life completely changes when dreams come true. Mr Popper used to send letters to an Admiral exploring the poles and the latter promised him a surprise. Thus, one day kind Mr Popper received an enormous box containing a penguin. The whole family enjoyed the presence of the bird and tried to offer the best living conditions but the penguin’s health soon began to fail. This is how another penguin, Greta, from an aquarium, got to Mr Popper’s house, to keep company to Captain Cook, the first penguin. A freezing plant was installed in the basement for the birds to feel happy. Soon Greta laid ten eggs so the penguins became twelve. The freezing installation and the food for twelve birds really affected the family’s budget, so Mr Popper thought training the birds and taking them to a theatre. They were delightful; everybody enjoyed the show so they traveled around United States performing in theatres and raising money for living. When in New York the penguins caused trouble in a theatre they were all arrested but Admiral Drake paid the bail and they all concluded that a life in theatres was not good for the birds. The Admiral decided to take the penguins at the North Pole and release them there for an experiment and as Mr Popper’s biggest dream was to see the Poles he joined the expedition. I found a little peculiar how quickly Mr Popper had decided to go and how easy his family took the decision but maybe this was, once again, the proof that a man has to follow his dreams.
Mr Popper is that kind of father that always has a positive attitude and can easily invent stories for his children. When the penguins became his main preoccupation he involved the whole family and found solutions to all their problems. Although he seemed ridiculous sometimes he has never hesitated using his imagination or believing in his dreams.