Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

I am a doofus. I don't know what happens to my brain, but it just checks out of reality. Climbs a mountain; hides in the clouds. Take for instance this morning. I'm at church. I have to go to the bathroom really bad so I run out, use the stall, only to emerge and see men at the sink. Ahhh! What a doofus! I went in the men's bathroom. And I confess, this isn't the first time this has happened.

Mr. Popper is an absentminded doofus too. When his penguins yank him down three flights of stairs, I'm thinking, uh-huh, that would happen to me. When he loses control of 12 penguins who invade an orchestra pit I recall teaching Sunday school and having 9 boys hanging from the trees outside (I thought it would be fun to have the lesson outside). AND when Mr. Popper's wife says that it is so much easier to clean with him not around, I look down at the piles around my chair of Nooks, books, and notepads and wonder if my husband would like to send me to the North Pole on an expedition. Speaking of my husband, he's been reading this book to his first graders for 18 years. Hmmm... I think the read is cathartic. He loves me. But I know I'm a challenge at times.

But, back to Mr. Popper. What makes this book so lovable? It is completely unbelievable. Why can that be annoying in some books and totally charming in others? I think the charm is the appeal of the characters from the penguins to Mr. Popper and the imaginative, unpredictable plot. Add in a nice dose of true facts about penguins and you have a charming marble cake. (I really want something sweet to eat right now.)

Right off the bat we learn that Mr. Popper is a dreamer. He dreams of not being a painter and instead exploring far-away countries. When Mr. Popper gets a penguin in the mail from Sir Admiral Drake who is exploring the South Pole, he is delighted. Mrs. Popper isn't so sure about a penguin as a pet but falls in love with it consenting to it living with her and their two children, Bill and Janie. Mr. Popper begins converting his refrigerator into a nest for the penguin named Captain Cook. When Captain Cook becomes ill the Poppers get Greta, a female penguin; thus causing a host of new issues Mr. Popper must tackle.

The first issue was that the two penguins didn't fit in the refrigerator. With the winter season beginning, Mr. Popper decided the two penguins could nest in the living room, so he opened the windows to let in falling snow that quickly piled into drifts. The penguins used the drifts as toboggan runs and Mr. Popper iced the floor so the runs were even faster. Janie and Bill had fun playing with the penguins until it became obvious that Greta was going to have babies. Mr. Popper then moved the furnace upstairs and installed a freezing plant in the basement where a bundle of penguin chicks were born.

When the Poppers started running out of money they decided to teach the penguins to act and join the theater. The Poppers Performing Penguins were a smash hit and Bill and Janie got to miss school so the show could travel around the United States. How can a young reader not love all that? Sledding in the living room, having pet penguins, traveling in a theater show, missing school. The penguins are the brains of this book. They are quite good at manipulating the adults and from their hilarious pranks to Mr. Popper's wildly imaginative problem-solving, this is a fun ride.

A great read aloud.

Reading Level 4.9
5 out of 5 Smileys

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