This month I decided to return to reading quality older books. I dug deep and found a winner. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater was published in 1938! It was nominated for the Newbery Medal in 1939. It did not win the award but remains a Newberry Honor book which is still a prestigious title to hold. Any author will tell you that it truly is an honor just to be nominated for a Newbery Medal.
Mr. Popper's Penguins is cute, light-hearted, and interesting. At the very least, readers of this book will learn about penguin care and believe me, it sounds expensive.
The story is about a man with a great fondness for visiting exotic places. The problem is that he has never left his hometown of Stillwater. He has a wife and two children and works as a house painter. From the sounds of it, he's a talented painter, but he is always dreaming of traveling the world instead.
After writing a letter to one of his favorite explorers in the South Pole, Mr. Popper receives a package in the mail. It's a penguin! Mr. Popper names the penguin Captain Cook. Mr. Popper and his family do their best to accomodate such a complicated pet by making alterations to their refrigerator and by buying plenty of canned shrimp.
The entire Popper family adores Captain Cook, but after a while Captain Cook becomes depressed. In a desperate attempt to help Captain Cook, Mr. Popper writes a letter to a zoo, asking for advice. The zoo, in turn, sends the Poppers a female penguin that also seems depressed. The Poppers name the new penguin Greta. Both penguins soon perk up and have 10 baby penguins. The Poppers must now invest a great deal of money into creating a suitable habitat for 12 penguins in their basement.
As the Popper's begin to go into debt, they decide to turn the interesting habits of the penguins into a show. The Poppers and the penguins travel the country doing their show and earn enough money to be comfortable.
In the end, the penguins relocate to the North Pole and Mr. Popper goes with them, finally living out his dream of visiting exotic places.
I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it to 3rd or 4th graders who love animals.