Mr. Popper's Penguins

Book review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Mr. Popper's Penguins Book Poster Image
1939 Newbery Honor book is both tender and funny.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

In the end when facing a moral dilemma, Mr. Popper becomes a true hero

Positive Role Models & Representations
Mr. and Mrs. Popper struggle to make enough money, but are true partners and happy parents. Mr. Popper teaches his family about penguins with awe and respect. He also cries when sad.
Violence & Scariness

Captain Cook (a penguin) is spanked when naughty. He also becomes lethargic and ill (with discussion of his poosible death) until Greta Penguin joins him.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1939 Newbery honor winner has captivated generations of readers. There's a little Mr. Popper in every reader, particularly those ages 5 to 8, full of questions about the world. In the end when facing a moral dilemma, Mr. Popper becomes a true hero. Vivid imagery, clever word plays, and funny characters that border on the absurd have made this book a popular choice in for kids in classrooms and at home. Audiobook version read by Nick Sullivan.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byJesusphreaq July 11, 2019

Mr. Popper: neglectful father and husband

Originally written in 1938, the family values are a hundred years out of date. There are many reviews on Goodreads that go over this problem, as well as talk ab... Continue reading
Adult Written byRddawn13 August 16, 2020

Was a captivating read a loud for my kids

My 7 year old loved this book. The chapters where short and perfect to hold his attention. It gave us lots of talking points. How the time frame of when the boo... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old March 25, 2018

terrible: please don’t read it

Can their be negative ratings because that’s what this book deserves?
Teen, 13 years old Written bylexyblue15 October 27, 2011

the greatest

.Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a great book for all ages. It has some very funny parts and if you like penguins you should not have to miss out on this fantastic boo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mr. Popper is a house painter in the 1930s in Stillwater, USA, and only works spring through fall. Wintertime is when he drowns himself in National Geographic and radio shows about world explorers. During one such show, he learns of Admiral Drake and his Antarctic adventures. He writes to him who surprisingly responds to Mr. Popper's letter with a live penguin. The adventures start with one and soon enough, the penguin family grows to nine. Mr. Popper, his wife, and their two kids take the penguins on the road as an act to earn money. The act eventually gets old and there's a run-in with the law only to be bailed out by Admiral Drake. Mr. Popper is then faced with a moral dilemma that questions the penguins' future.

Is it any good?

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is one of those classic childhood books that kids always remember. The chapter book's witty dialogue (albeit with dated language), clever characters, and an ethical predicament make this book as enjoyable today as in the 1930s. Many teachers today use it as part of their language arts curriculum. Mr. Poppers Penguins is a good fit for most first- and second-grade readers, and can be read aloud to kindergartners.

Though the book was written in 1938, Mr. Popper was ahead of his time for progressive parenting, letting his kids leave school to help him take the penguin act on the road. He also treats his wife with respect, giving her voice equal status in the household. Kids will see through this funny, quirky man that learning never stops, and sometimes, by asking questions, great things happen. Mirroring the partnership of Mr. and Mrs. Popper, Richard Atwater got sick and was unable to finish the book, so his wife, Florence, picked up where he left off.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the definition of family has changed since the 1930s. Mr. and Mrs. Popper have very clear roles in this family. What are they? 

  • Would they have the same roles today? 

  • Parents can also talk about the Adelie penguin and help kids look up this and other types of penguins on the Internet or at the library.

Book details

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