Thursday, July 2, 2009

Took some time off to recoup from spring classes, but I'm back again. Here's a review of my latest for a Polar Regions theme read with the LibraryThing group Reading Globally...

Thought I’d start with a quick read to ease back into the swing of things…so I started the Polar month with Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, a children’s book published in 1938 and a Newbery Honor winner of 1939.

The setting for the story is actually a town called Stillwater in some unspecified state in mid-US, where Mr. & Mrs. Popper live with their two children. Mr. Popper paints houses and spends his free time absorbed in stories about the far-away places of the world that he’s never seen.

Mr. Popper is particularly taken with the Polar regions and writes a letter to Admiral Drake, Antarctic explorer. To everyone’s surprise a large crate arrives by return post, the contents of which turn out to be a live penguin sent by the Admiral himself.

Various adventures and merriment ensue. Eventually the Poppers are proud owners of a traveling road troupe of twelve penguins. The act is so successful that the penguins are offered a lucrative movie contract by a Hollywood mogul, but Mr. Popper sorrowfully decides that it is best for the penguins to be returned to their proper icebound surroundings.

Admiral Drake intercedes, though, to say that the US government is concerned about the unfortunate Arctic explorers who must go about their lonely expeditions without the benefit of penguins for company. The Admiral proposes to take the Popper penguins north to the Arctic, with the intention of establishing a breeding colony there. Mr. Popper is invited to accompany the expedition as penguin-keeper.

“Mamma,” shouted Mr. Popper to Mrs. Popper…”I’m going, too! I’m going, too! Admiral Drake says he needs me. Mamma, do you mind if I don’t come home for a year or two?” This passage brought to mind one of the titles timjones recommended...I may be some time: ice and the English imagination, though I suspect that one has a bit more of a firm purchase on reality than does Mr. Popper's Penguins!

Silly and somewhat dated, but still quite an enjoyable read. 3.5/5

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