Still one of the coolest books ever – “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Richard and Florence Atwater
If you’re like me, you’ve been seeing the trailers for a film version of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” beginning to air on TV. The ads, which feature a slick-looking Jim Carrey playing what appears to be a businessman in a fancy apartment who gets stuck with some penguins (named Lovey, Stinky, and some other ridiculous names), not only look stupid but also reminded me of what the actual original book is about.
And how great it is.
In Richard and Florence Atwater’s delightful and timeless Newberry Award winning book, Mr. Popper is a house painter who lives with his wife and two children in a small town. He’s of average income, hardly slick, and reads and dreams about going on Arctic expeditions. One of his letters to Admiral Drake, a famous explorer, results in his being gifted a penguin, who he names Captain Cook. Captain Cook is a delight to have around the house, even if the family does have to adapt to this interesting character – namely, by letting him live in the fridge. Soon, though, Captain Cook becomes despondent, so Mr. Popper reaches out to a local zoo – who also happens to have one lone, sad, penguin. The zoo gives their penguin, Greta, to the Poppers, and soon the house is filled with the waddling offspring of the two adult penguins (who aren’t sad anymore.) As a way to make some money, the Poppers decide to teach the twelve penguins a few easy routines and take them on the road as performers, which is a smash success.
Admiral Drake shows up again, and it’s decided the best place for the penguins is back in their native arctic environment. Though the Popper family makes out financially good in the deal, Mr. Popper is saddened by the loss of his feathered friends. That is, until Admiral Drake asks him to come along. Mrs. Popper bids him adieu (just for a little while), and they all live happily ever after.
Come on. How much more charming is the original plot than a slick, updated version?
I’m not holding out hopes for the movie. In fact, let’s be honest, I’ll probably only bother seeing it after it starts streaming free on Netflix. (Based on the trailer, it shouldn’t take too long.)
Seriously. Tell me this doesn’t look dumb.
That said, the book remains a treat. And probably always will.