Jul 28, 2012

#TheList. No. 200: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Look at this:


Now this:

And this lil' guy:

I LOVE PENGUINS.  So it should come as no surprise that I loved reading Mr. Popper's Penguins while on the elliptical at the gym the other day.  What might be a surprise is that it was the first time I had ever read this children's book.  I know, I'm shocked too.

A synopsis for those who also have never encountered Mr. Popper, or a refresher for the many who have:  Mr. Popper is a house painter who loves reading about the Arctic or the Antarctic.  One day, an admiral on a South Pole expedition responds to the equivalent of a fan letter by sending along a penguin. From there, the Poppers acquire a penguin family and while that's incredibly fun in ways, they need to figure out a way to financially keep these penguins and the family afloat.  

What struck me immediately was how well this book would work for either reading to a child or a child reading it on their own.  The story is broken down into 20 short, illustrated chapters.  The language lends itself to vivid images, which is necessary for read-alouds, but it's not too daunting for a young reader who wants to tackle a book on her own.  It's captivating, amusing, and well-written. 

The only thing that irked me about this book was the description of Mr. Popper being absentminded because he was always daydreaming about other countries.  This absentmindedness comes into play in the ending, but there's a large span of story where he seems to be the most together person trying to walk a penguin on a leash.  For a younger audience, they may not remember that aspect of his character.  They also might not care, but it irked me at least.  

This book offers a wide variety of active and passive programming ideas.  First up, movie night! There's a Jim Carey movie adaptation of this book that I've never seen, but he makes great facial expressions which is something that kids just love.  Or you could offer a bunch of other penguin themed entertainment: Madagascar, Happy Feet (but not the second one because it's not as good), March of the Penguins, etc. etc.  You could have kids draw their own penguins or make paper bag penguins: 

Kids could write their own short story about what they would do if they got a penguin in the mail.  Or you could just make a penguin display with this book, the above movies, And Tango Makes Three, nonfiction, Arctic books, etc. etc.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  Now go do some!!


  1. I haven't read this one either—I need to get on that.

  2. I LOVED MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS. I think everyone in my school read it in third grade, because I remember being at a friend's house with a bunch of other kids and all "tobagganing" down the stairs because I think the penguins do that in the book? Yeah...