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116 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Opus times twelve
on May 17, 2004
I've lived 26 years on this earth. In those 26 years I've learned a lot about children's books. I've learned which ones are considered the holiest of holies and which are to be condemned and spat upon. So I was completely taken aback when I learned that there was a 1938 children's book that absolutely no one had ever told me to read before. "Mr. Popper's Penguins" was a delight to discover. Suddenly I was privy to reading a charming story of a man and his penguins, and I had never even heard a peep about this tale from anyone. What gives? Why isn't "Mr. Popper's Penguins" as well-known and well-read as "Cheaper by the Dozen" or "Stuart Little"? There is no answer to this question. There is only this wonderful book, well-illustrated and magnificently written for the younger set.
Mr. Popper is a house painter, and mostly a good one. True, he does sometimes fall into fits of fancy, dreaming about the Arctic explorers and the ice floes to the North and South. His wife and children don't necessarily understand his dreams, but that doesn't sway Mr. Popper. One day, out of the blue, he receives word that one of the great explorers he wrote, Admiral Drake, read his letter and is sending him a present. As any child who remembers the title of the book might guess, a penguin comes hopping out of a newly delivered crate the next day. Mr. Popper is charmed by the little guest, and names him Captain Cook. Cook is a curious beasty, and the Poppers do everything from outfitting their refrigerator to taking Captain Cook for walks. When the penguin falls into a deep depression it is only the delivery of a second penguin from the zoo, Gerta, that cheers him up. Soon the penguin pair lay some eggs and the Popper household is privy to ten more lovely jumpy penguins. With money hard to come by it takes a clever Mr. Popper to come up with a way to make his penguins not only profitable, but stars.
First of all, make certain that if you are reading a version of this story that you have grabbed one that has Robert Lawson's beautiful illustrations. The same illustrator that's responsible for the lovable picture book, "Ferdinand the Bull" has switched his focus from beef to fowl. These penguins are remarkably well drawn, from their inquisitive little eys to their ugly webbed feet. If you've never seen a Lawson illustration, here would be a good place to start. The writing of Richard and Florence Atwater is extremely readable for anyone of any age. The phrase, "they just don't make `em like that anymore" is unfair, but also kind of true. There's something to the simplicity of this book that you just can't find anywhere else. It is, all in all, just fantastic. And with Lawson's adept renderings of all the characters and situations, you are left in no doubt that this is one of the best books of this or any other age.
So a great wrong has been righted. I am no longer in the dark regarding "Mr. Popper's Penguins". If you'd like to introduce your kids (or, heaven forfend, yourself) to a fantastic piece of penguin rookery, grab yourself a copy of this l'il number. It's bound to make you a fan.