Author : Richard and Florence Atwater
Age : 5-12 years
Read a truly feel good children's book after a long time. Once again I owe the sheer pleasure of reading a wonderful book to none other than my sister. She is the one who introduced us to the creative world of Jeff Brown (Stanley series), E.B.White(Charlotte's Web), Andrew Clements (Frindle) and many others. So when this time she mentioned the title 'Mr. Popper's Penguins', I lost no time in placing an order on Flipkart. It helps that her first born is elder to my children so I get to inherit all the collected wisdom of her experience with the elder child. The family is in US and the mother and kids combo makes the best use of their local public library, taking part in most of their reading programs as well.
Though I have never seen a penguin in real life and I am sure most of the readers haven't either, but based on whatever I have seen in pictures, movies, TV programmes and other such sources, penguins have always appeared to me as very gentle(wo)manly with well groomed hair(fur), shining black tuxedo kind coats, snow-white fronts and sleek beaks. Just seeing them gives an impression that they are always ready for a party or for an office presentation. And these are exactly the feelings of Mr. Popper as he dreams of far away lands while reveling in his favourite pastime of reading about the polar regions and the inhabitants of those regions.
A painter by profession with limited resources, he knows he could never live his dream of being in the midst of the polar creatures so he looks forward to devoting all his free time reading about them.
While listening to one of the radio programs Mr Popper hears his name called out when Admiral Drake who happens to be exploring Antarctica actually answers Mr. Popper's fan mail with a promise of a surprise. Shortly thereafter a surprise package lands at the Mr. Popper's doorstep. Out comes a fine penguin who is soon christened as Captain Cook by Poppers. The whole family gears up to make their new guest comfortable in their home by letting Captain Cook sleep in the specifically customized family freezer. One is lonely and two is company so another penguin Greta from Zoo joins Captain soon to have a big family with hime. Popper's family is thrilled to have them because Captain's family including ten little penguins now have brought playfulness and cheerfulness in the whole household but there are practical matters to take care of too and the financial issues topped the list of their worries.
Mrs and Mr Popper come up with a brilliant idea of training the penguins to organize a show with them - 'Popper's Performing Penguins'. The unique show soon becomes a rage and gets invited throughout the country but because of some unfortunate misunderstanding Mr. Popper and his penguins end up in a jail. There is a sweet twist in the tale at the end and Mr. Popper gets the lifetime opportunity to live his dream of ages.
The book was originally published in 1938 but a good story remains a good story no matter what year it is. This is undoubtedly one of the finest books in the children's literature space. The illustrations by Robert Lawson are par excellence so do pick the one with illustrations by him. The easily understandable language and the simplicity of the story would surely capture all readers right from page one.