Module 2: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

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Book Summary:  Mr. Popper, a “house-decorator,” painter, and father, dreams of exploring the Atlantic during his holiday.  After writing to the famous Admiral Drake, Mr. Popper receives a surprise package direct from the South Pole, an antarctic penguin.  Penguins, however, can be very lonely without other penguins, so the edition of a second penguin begins the ultimate adventure that results in ten full-grown penguins who become international stars of the stage.  Through a series of humorous and far-fetched incidences (Mr. Popper must have a refrigeration system installed in his basement along with ice  blocks to construct homes for his penguins),  The Poppers’ love and dedication to their family of penguins delights the reader from the first “gawk” to the last. 

APA Reference: Atwater, R. and Atwater F. (1938).  Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  New York, NY:  Little, Brown and Company. 

Impressions:  With the recent film adaptation starring Jim Carrey, I was very curious about this little book.  Although the plot line is far-fetched, its simplicity and quirkiness is very entertaining.  As the penguins get into one snafu after another and Mr. Popper struggles to support his penguin and human family, I became attached to the web-footed creatures.  The nicely packaged ending that provides a “best of both worlds” conclusion did disappoint me slightly.  Hoping for some hint of a moral or lesson, I looked forward to the ending for a nugget of truth to take from the book.  Instead, I was left with humorous sketches of sparring penguins and gloved pianists.  For small children, however, the penguins’ hijinks and short chapters provide a pleasurable reading experience. 

Professional Review: More than 60 years have not dated this wonderfully absurd tale–it still makes kids (and parents) laugh out loud. Poor Mr. Popper isn’t exactly unhappy; he just wishes he had seen something of the world before meeting Mrs. Popper and settling down. Most of all, he wishes he had seen the Poles, and spends his spare time between house-painting jobs reading all about polar explorations. Admiral Drake, in response to Mr. Popper’s fan letter, sends him a penguin; life at 432 Proudfoot Avenue is never the same again. From one penguin living in the icebox, the Popper family grows to include 12 penguins, all of whom must be fed. Thus is born “Popper’s Performing Penguins, First Time on Any Stage, Direct from the South Pole.” Their adventures while on tour are hilarious, with numerous slapstick moments as the penguins disrupt other acts and invade hotels. Classic chapter-a-night fun. (Ages 5 to 10) –Richard Farr (

Farr, R. Mr. Popper’s penguins [Review of the book Mr. Popper’s penguins].  Amazon.  Retrieved from

Library Uses: This short chapter book would be a fun addition to a text set centered around penguins for a book talk.  Paired with nonfiction titles about penguins, it would provide a comical glimpse into the personality of the animals.  A display could include essential questions about penguins such as, “Do penguins live with their families?”

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