Mr. Popper’s Penguins

by Richard and Florence Atwater (1938)

An old chestnut. But just as tasty and intriguing for its age.

Sometimes schools are looking for a book that escapes from the spark and flash and bombast of the 21st century. That returns to simple prose and the elemental silliness of children’s imaginations.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is such a book. First published during the Depression – it is miraculously still in print. Why is that?

It is because, like other classic children’s literature from before WWII, from L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz to Hugh Lofting’s The Story of Dr. Doolittle, it takes a simple fantastic premise, and runs simply riot with it.

The simple house-painter, Mr. Popper, engages his peculiar, eccentric interest in all things Antarctic – and attempts to raise and care for a troop of penguins. Fantastic – and yet engaging and beguiling to literally generations of children – who marvel and caper at the silly antics of the penguins – but who also fall under the spell of a simple novel of redemption – without benefit of special effects and pyrotechnics.

That allows readers of this novel (or in our case listeners to this novel) to re-acquaint themselves with the value and beauty of simple English prose – meant to amuse and entertain – not to instruct.

Note: Mr. Popper’s Penguins is one of several One School, One Book titles that Read to Them recommends as easier, entry titles – perhaps easier for less experienced parent readers to master and command.